The importance of correct Brexit negotiations in the context of the fishing industry cannot be over-emphasised.
Local woman Ann Bell, MBE, a former Marine Resources Advisor to the North Sea Commission, recently wrote to Lib Dem Peers Lord Malcolm Bruce of Bennachie, Lord Jim Wallace of Tankerness and Baroness Ros Scott of Needham Market to ask that they table an amendment to the Brexit Bill going through the House of Lords.
The amendment stated: “Before any commitment is entered into on behalf of the UK affecting fishing rights in the seas within UK territorial waters or within the seas regarded by the UK as within the UK’s exclusive economic zone, in any negotiations related to the UK withdrawal from the EU following the day on which the Act is passed, a resolution must be passed by both houses of the UK Parliament; and where any potential commitment affects fishing rights in UK territorial waters and waters within the UK exclusive economic zone adjacent to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Government must obtain the consent of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly.
Ann Bell says UK territorial waters must not be used as a bargaining tool prior to Brexit. Any negotiations with our EU neighbours should be conducted post Brexit.
She said: “I hope this very practical amendment, which will help safeguard our fishing industry and coastal communities, can gain cross party support in the House of Lords and the House of Commons. This amendment is not about delaying Article 50, therefore I would encourage all those concerned to lobby your MPs to seek their support.”
Lords Bruce and Wallace spoke in support of the amendment in the Brexit debate.
Lord Bruce said: “From Shetland to the Scilly Isles the fishing industry is looking to ensure that its interests are fully safeguarded in any final deal on leaving the EU. This amendment puts down a clear marker on the industry’s behalf.”
Lord Wallace said the fishing industry is important; part of the problem is that people have tried too often to shut the industry up, when it has had genuine concerns about the way the CFP has operated over many years. Indeed, there are concerns now that in the Brexit negotiations it might yet be forgotten about. He concluded: “We have raised this and we will continue to raise it.”
The Peers sought assurance from the Minister that he recognises that the fishing industry has a clear and legitimate interest.