Northern Isles MP, Alistair Carmichael, led a debate in Parliament on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and urged the UK to make it a priority in the ongoing EU negotiations.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said:
“In 2014, we in Shetland alone landed in the region of 78,000 tonnes of fish or shellfish with a value of £76 million from local and visiting boats: 24% of all fish landed in Scotland in that year. In fact, the amount of fish landed in Shetland is greater than the amounts landed in ports in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Some 30% of our local economic product comes from fishing or fish farming—the seafood industries taken as a whole. I tell hon. Members that so that they can understand. Talk about common fisheries policy reform can often be quite jargon-heavy and a little bit dry and academic, but for us, as a community, it is anything but that. The fishing industry defines us as a community and underpins just about everything else that happens within our community.
“The essence of the problem that the hon. Gentleman highlights is that fisheries management is something done to the industry and to the communities affected, rather than being something that they feel they have any ownership of, or are able to influence. Although there have been an enormous number of problems with the regional advisory councils, they have been a source of enormous progress and benefit and are certainly infinitely preferable to what we had before they were established, when everything was done in Brussels with simply no opportunity to challenge it.
“That is because of the constitutional architecture within which the CFP, in its various iterations, has had to sit: the various treaties, the acquis communautaire, the principle of common access, which the hon. Lady mentioned, and the Lisbon treaty, which enshrined the principle that the conservation of marine biological resources, as only the EU could call fishing, was to be a sole competence.
“We have had to live with all those matters, because it has been next to impossible to find our way around them. If we proceed piece by piece, we will reform neither the policy nor the constitutional architecture that sits around it. Now, however, we apparently have an opportunity to bring about reform. The Prime Minister has said that we are to have a referendum on a reformed European Union, and the issue before us is one of the areas of community policy and responsibility that is absolutely ripe for reform. The CFP has not worked for fishermen, fishing communities, conservationists or scientists, so this is surely the time to take a blank sheet of paper and say, “We can do this differently.”
“My request to the Minister is a simple one. On behalf of the House and the various fishing communities represented here today, will he make the need for reform and for tackling historic anomalies that have caused so many problems in Europe a priority for negotiation with other member states? In that way, he could deliver a change that would make an enormous difference to the industry and to the communities we represent, which would serve us all better as a result.”
Speaking after the debate Mr Carmichael said:
“The renegotiation of the UK terms of membership is not without its risks but since the Prime Minister is determined to undertake it I think he should use this as an opportunity to win the changes to the CFP that we need. I was disappointed that the fisheries minister did not show much enthusiasm for this. I shall, however, continue to work with other interested MPs to persuade them that they should.”