Minister Victoria Prentis is accused of ignoring the political reality of post-Brexit Fisheries Deal

A new sub-committee has criticised the Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Victoria Prentis for ignoring the political reality of post-Brexit Fisheries.

The newly formed House of Lords European Union Environment Sub-Committee is disappointed in the Government Minister’s response to concerns on negotiations over post-Brexit fishing agreements.

The Committee initially wrote to Environment Secretary George Eustice MP in March about fears raised by its inquiry into access to British waters by foreign fishing fleets after the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

The response received from Victoria Prentis MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was unsatisfactory and gave the impression that the Government is not genuinely seeking to reach a fisheries agreement. 

While the Committee agrees with the Minister’s point that the UK will have every right to control fishing access to its waters, the Minster ignored their central contention that exercising that right comes with consequences for both the fishing industry and the wider economy. 

The Committee was particularly concerned that the Minister’s response conflated negotiations on Total Allowable Catches and negotiations on access rights, and was “surprised” that she dismissed experts’ concerns  about the potential  impact of Brexit on fishing and aquaculture as “hypothetical”, particularly in the context of the additional challenges posed by COVID-19.

The Committee’s newly appointed Chair, Lord Teverson has asked the Minister to write to them again about the current state of play in the fisheries negotiations and whether she believes agreement will be reached by 1 July.

The letter to the Under Secretary reads as follows:

Dear Victoria,

Access to UK fisheries post-Brexit

Thank you for your letter of 5 May responding to the conclusions of our predecessor
Committee’s inquiry on access to UK fisheries post-Brexit.
We are, frankly, disappointed by your response. It gives the impression that you are not
genuinely seeking to reach a fisheries agreement, nor to engage with the Committee’s
concerns.
In considering the need for annual negotiations you conflate negotiations on Total Allowable
Catches (TACs) and negotiations on access rights. Can we please ask that you deal with both
aspects separately and inform us clearly of your position on each.
You argue that the UK, as an independent coastal state, will have every right to control fishing
access to its waters. This is of course true. However, in making that argument you ignore our
central contention that exercising that right comes with consequences for both the fishing
industry and the wider economy that you entirely fail to acknowledge.
And your statement that there is “ample time” to strike a deal ignores the political reality of
the issues yet to be agreed, and, not incidentally, the ratification processes on both sides.
You argue that the EU may be amenable to a zonal attachment approach to rebalancing quota
allocations if it results in stable quota shares. We are glad to hear it. That, however, is the
only reason for optimism we can glean from your letter.
You began your response by acknowledging the potential impact of COVID-19 on the fishing
and aquaculture sectors. In that context, where the industry is facing the dual challenge of
COVID-19 and Brexit, we are surprised that you would dismiss the concerns raised by our
expert witnesses, including experienced representatives of the sector, as “hypothetical”.Please write to us regarding the current state of play in the fisheries negotiations, outlining
both Parties’ positions, the key points of contention, your view on any potential ways forward,
and whether you believe agreement will be reached by 1 July.

Regards,

Lord Teverson

Chair of the EU Environment Sub-Committee

Minister accused of ignoring Political Reality of post-Brexit Fisheries Deal

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