‘Unshackle’ UK from EU fishing rules, ministers urged

The IEA claims EU fishing policy is "damaging"
The IEA claims EU fishing policy is "damaging"
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Politicians are being urged to use Brexit as an opportunity to “unshackle” the UK from European fishing regulations, as experts propose an end to “damaging” industry subsidies.

Members of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) claim years of EU interventions have proven “costly” and “ineffective” when it comes to promoting sustainable practices in the sector, and should be ditched in favour of British-formed policies.

Their recommendations include scrapping rules that limit the size of boats, as well as abandoning restrictions on the number of days a certain area can be fished.

The group also recommend phasing out industry subsidies, which they argue have removed any incentives for conservation and fuelled the “drastic depletion” of international fish stocks.

Commenting on the IEA findings, report editor Dr Richard Wellings said: “The decline of the fishing industry and disastrous exploitation of fish stocks has largely been down to the failure of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

“Pumping vast subsidies into the sector has been counterproductive as they increase the size of the fishing fleet, opening the door for more trawlers to exploit free-for-all stocks.

“But Brexit provides a golden opportunity for the UK to regain control of its fisheries policy and look to market-based mechanisms such as introducing property rights in order to promote sustainability and productivity in the industry.”

The Leave campaign enjoyed strong support from the fishing industry during last year’s referendum campaign, largely due to the highly unpopular EU quota system and the introduction of a ban on discarding fish at sea.

Many fishermen saw Brexit as an opportunity to take back control of British fishing waters, and those in Scotland hoped it would see new powers devolved to Holyrood.

The Government is now facing calls to pull out of the 1964 London Fisheries Convention which allows European fishing vessels to access waters six to twelve nautical miles from British shores.

It is understood the process will take two years, and responding to a question from the former Defra Secretary Owen Paterson last month, Theresa May claimed the Government is “looking very carefully” at the convention and hopes to make a further announcement on the issue “soon”.