Government using '˜smoke and mirrors' over fishing deal says UKIP MEP

The Government has been accused of 'smoke and mirrors' over its announcement that the UK will withdraw from an arrangement that allows foreign countries to fish in British waters.

Ukip MEP Mike Hookem fears another wholesale betrayal of fishing communities
Ukip MEP Mike Hookem fears another wholesale betrayal of fishing communities

Ministers will trigger withdrawal from the London Fisheries Convention, signed in 1964 before the UK joined the European Union, to start the two-year process to leave the agreement.

The convention allows vessels from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of the coast.

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It sits alongside the EU Common Fisheries Policy which allows all European countries access between 12 and 200 nautical miles of the UK and sets fishing quotas.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said it would give the UK “back control of its fishing policy.”

But UKIP Fisheries spokesman MEP Mike Hookem, speaking from Hull, until the 1970s one of the world’s biggest fishing ports, said he feared another “wholesale betrayal” of fishing communities.

He said: “I know from sitting in the PECH (fisheries) committee of the European Parliament that the EU is making plans to continue the terms of its Common Fisheries Policy in British waters post-Brexit.

“Put simply, leaving the Convention without assurances that the UK will claim, enforce and exploit our full 200-mile EEZ for the UK’s benefit is no victory for the fishing community.

“Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Gove twice refused to rule out EU vessels fishing in Britain’s waters and kept repeating, ‘we get to decide.’

“It is as obvious as the nose on your face that means Britain’s fisheries will be used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations and the terms of the Common Fisheries Policy are likely to continue.”

The UK fishing industry was made up of more than 6,000 vessels in 2015, landing 708,000 tonnes of fish worth £775m.

Some 10,000 tonnes of fish was caught by other countries under the convention, worth an estimated £17m.

But Barrie Deas, chief executive of the York-based National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, welcomed the move saying it was an “important part of establishing the UK as an independent coastal state with sovereignty over its own exclusive economic zone.”