Alistair Carmichael led a debate in the House of Commons on the fisheries deal between the Government and the EU. The debate, started by an urgent question, secured by Mr. Carmichael, focused on the announcement from David Davis and Michel Barnier on the terms for the UK’s transition deal. The agreement will see the UK remain a member of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) until the end of the transition deal, despite assurances from the Government that the UK would leave the CFP when the UK leaves the EU in 2019.
Mr Carmichael voiced the anger in fishing communities at the deal, as well as the technical challenges around the way in which it can be implemented.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr. Carmichael said:
“I have to tell him, if he doesn't already know it, the mood in fishing communities is one of palpable anger. This is not what they were promised. And the basic question that the Secretary of State has to answer today is this: if they can let us down like this over the deal for a transitional period, how do we know that they will not do it again when it comes to the final deal. When it comes to it, will they trade away access for waters for access to markets or anything else?"
Mr. Carmichael went on to say:
“The House also needs to hear today how this bizarre arrangement is going to work in practice. The EU-Norway Faroe Deal on mackerel is due to expire at the end of this year. We had thought that it would be rolled over for 12 months, is that still going to be the case, and what barrier will there be to the EU commission agreeing another bad deal for our pelagic fleet?
“With regard to the operation of the discard ban, the Secretary of State should know that British boats have a particular problem with hake as a choke species. That is a problem for our fleet and for nobody else. Does he really expect that the other 27 member countries are going to come up with a solution to something that is a problem only for us and not for them?”
Responding on behalf of the Government, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, said:
“I completely understand how fishing communities feel about the situation at the moment. I share their disappointment.”
“The truth is that every single fishing nation is affected by the discard ban and by choke species, and that we operate collectively with our neighbours in order to ensure that we have the correct means of marine conservation because unless we have a system which involves both choke species and a discard ban then we can have the overfishing, which sadly in the past has led to an unhappy outcome for fishing communities.”
Commenting after the exchange, Mr. Carmichael said:
“Michael Gove was clear and careful with his language today. He spoke about opportunities for the industry but he gave no assurances that these opportunities would not be bargained away as they have been so often in the past.
“But beyond the promises that were broken, there remain important questions about how this system is to work in practice. It is unrealistic to expect other EU member’s commissioners, once the UK has left the EU, to spend their time working out solutions to challenges which primarily face the British fishing fleet.”