Take back control! John Redwood urges David Frost to demolish EU fishing export threats
Brexit: Redwood urges government to negotiate new fishing deal
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But Sir John Redwood believes Lord David Frost’s appointment to the cabinet will see Britain adopt a tougher line on the issue. Meanwhile Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has written to Environment Secretary George Eustice and Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis to emphasise the pressure his industry is under since the UK’s departure from the bloc.
The problems for shellfish exporters stem from the fact that oysters, mussels, clams, cockles and scallops generally require purification in the EU before they can be distributed to supermarkets, restaurants and bars.
The UK Government had told exporters restrictions would end on April 21, when Brussels brought in new animal health legislation – but the EU Commission subsequently confirmed this was not the case.
Mr Eustice initially wrote to the European Commission’s Stella Kyriakides expressing his frustration and accusing the EU of changing its position, while seeking “urgent resolution”.
However, a Shellfish Association of Great Britain email to members seen by the PoliticsHome website suggested Defra had since acknowledged the EU view, that the trade is not legal, was in fact correct.
Nevertheless, Sir John, MP for Wokingham, told Express.co.uk he had been expressing the frustration of Britain’s fishermen “at every opportunity”.
He added: “I feel very sorry for them and I feel that it was the right thing to want to free ourselves from the common fishing policy but we need to free ourselves more quickly and we need to show that any agreements entered into on an interim basis are nonetheless compatible with the interests of our fishing industry.”
With respect to rules concerning shellfish exports, he said: “I don’t think they’d bind us to something that was going to knowingly be damaging.
“Indeed the ministers have said that on the shellfish thing they thought they had an assurance that we carry on sending shellfish on the same basis so there is a clear example
“We’ve got to be a lot firmer in defence of our fishing interests and regulating our fishing grounds.”
Sir John added: “I’m delighted David Frost is going to be taking over because he’ll have the time to concentrate on it all.
“And obviously we need to talk to the EU about it, but I think we also need a domestic solution which we will put through if the EU remain unrealistic and unhelpful.
“Because we have, we are told, taken back control of our fishing grounds and are now an independent coastal state regulating our fishing grounds in our own interests.
“And if the EU is operating against the spirit, and indeed probably the letter of the arrangements they came into, we need to persuade them to behave sensibly, otherwise we need to legislate a UK solution.”
Looking to the future, Sir John emphasised the need for more investment – as well as buying British wherever possible.
He explained: “We need more capacity, so that we can catch more fish and we need more fish processing capacity and we need the food industry to back the fishing industry and to buy the fish from the fishermen.
“Also, I recommend going direct – if the supermarkets aren’t prepared to put enough of our fish into the supermarket I sometimes just contact the Cornish fishing sales operation and buy from them.”
In his letter, dated February 17, Mr Deas said: “I am writing again to press you on this matter because things in our sector are getting worse rather than better.
“The combined effects of Covid-19 lockdown and impediments to the export of fish and shellfish, along with low levels of resilience are putting a great strain on the viability of many fishing businesses.”
He added: “The purpose of the first tranche of financial support was to ensure that we have viable fishing businesses when these troubles recede. In that regard, nothing has changed.
“We would therefore urge you to make the necessary approaches to the Treasure for the support that our sector desperately needs.”
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