Last week, I had a very useful discussion with Victoria Prentis, Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I was very encouraged by our discussion on the current fishing negotiations, and l stressed the impact of any final agreement on the future of the fish industry here. Victoria Prentis asked me to pass on the thanks of the Government to all the fish processors and traders here who have done
"such a fantastic job in keeping the country well supplied with high quality products during the current crisis"
As I’m sure everyone is aware, fishing rights are one of the key areas of disagreement between the UK and the EU as we finally leave. The disagreement stems from the fact that the UK shares almost all its fish stocks with the EU member states. That leads on to two key issues in the negotiations: access to waters and fishing grounds, and the share of fishing rights. The EU wants access to our waters based on existing fishing rights that were previously agreed and the UK wants exclusive control over access. The EU and UK also have very different approaches as to how fishing rights should be allocated.
In simple terms, we want fishing rights for a particular stock to be allocated to the country in whose waters the fish are found (‘zonal attachment’), and the EU still wants rights for stocks to be given to countries who have fished them historically (‘relative stability’).
The issue is further complicated by two things: many fish species are slowly moving northwards to colder waters due to climate change, which favours our approach in the long term and we export (and still want to) a lot of our fish to the EU. We also must agree a plan that leads to sustainable fishing of course. Our fisheries bill already enshrines this in UK Law. Our negotiators are taking a firm line and have the full support of the Government on this one.