Eustice confirms UK fisheries bill will be introduced before the summer but our fishermen may have to endure a post Brexit transition period before getting exclusive control of UK waters.

The UK Fisheries Bill will be introduced to parliament before the summer Fisheries Minister George Eustice confirmed in the Annual Fisheries Debate in Parliament yesterday (Thurs 7th Dec). He also confirmed the UK’s intention to withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy by the end of March 2019 , the day of Brexit but our fishermen may have to wait til Jan 1st 2020 to get exclusive control of UK waters.

The government have been consistent in their plans to withdraw from the unpopular Common Fisheries Policy and a new UK fisheries management system will replace it.

As the timing of Brexit falls in the middle of the statistical year, to align data and to make it easier to work out quotas a transition period immediately after Brexit will be necessary. This must be no longer than nine months, insisted Sheryll Murray MP for South East Cornwall and the UK can look forward to a fresh start from January 1st 2020.

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Screwed on the way in, screwed on the way out? Fishing is the litmus test of a succesful Brexit

George Eustice will be headed to Brussels for the fifth time as Fisheries Minister next week for the December quota negotiations.

The CFP is blamed for the decline in the fishing industry since the UK joined in 1973. Foreign boats are allowed to catch five times more fish in UK waters than our own fleet and the government and the industry share a steadfast determination to redress this imbalance.

The UK’s 200 mile EEZ

The leave campaign made some bold claims for the fishing industry in the referendum campaign and fishermen overwhelmingly voted to Leave.

The Fisheries Bill will establish the UK as an independent coastal state and enforce control of the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around our coast (or median line between two countries). The iconic status of ‘reclaiming our waters’ masked a relatively small industry that contributes less than 1% to GDP and supports around 33,000 jobs when you include food processing.

It is widely accepted that the fishing industry was sold out in 1973 and there is a big fear within the industry that it will once again become a sacrificial lamb.

Paul Trebilcock of Cornish Fish Producers Organisation, who have submitted a paper to DEFRA with their demands in the Brexit negotiations said “”The fishing industry should be seen as the litmus test of a successful Brexit. The UK fishing industry was badly let down by politicians in 1973. Entry conditions to the EEC included the principal of equal access to a common resource. This denied us all the benefits that naturally flow from being an independent coastal state. We look forward to a new era of sustainable prosperity based on that altered status”

George Eustice told the house

“Everyone will be aware that it is our intention and plan to introduce a fisheries Bill in this Session. Early next year, we will publish more detailed proposals for that Bill, which we anticipate will be introduced during the course of the year, probably before the summer. The Bill will set out very clearly our approach, which is that when we leave the European Union we will become an independent coastal state under international law. We will take control of our exclusive economic zone, which is out to 200 miles or the median line. From that point, we will work with our neighbours to agree issues such as access and quota shares. The hon. Member for Halifax asked what the basis of those quota allocations would be. We are looking at the issue of zonal attachment, which most people recognise is the fairest way to do such things”

Watch the fisheries minister’s statement here for more details about quotas etc