Peter Grant – 2022 Speech on the Annual Fisheries Negotiations with EU and North Atlantic States

The speech made by Peter Grant, the SNP MP for Glenrothes, in the House of Commons on 20 December 2022.

I am surprised to hear the Minister say that he could not make a statement on this before today, because there was a statement on the Government website on 9 December.

I welcome the fact that we have got an agreement for the North sea that relies heavily on scientific advice. However, although an increase in catch quotas is welcome, certainly for the Scottish fishing industry, we also need seamless access to export markets. So will the Minister listen to calls from the industry for an improved deal for market access to the EU for Scotland’s fishing industry? The all-party group on fisheries recently reported that the fishing industry now takes a “principally negative” view of Brexit. In Scotland, that industry was almost the only voice for Brexit before the referendum. Does the Minister agree with the Scottish White Fish Producers Association Ltd that

“Brexit failed to deliver any benefits of being a coastal state”?

Given that Brexit red tape and paperwork alone cost the UK fishing industry £60 million in just the first 12 months, not including the cost of lost trade, when will the Government recognise the damage that Brexit has done to our fishing communities? When will they compensate them adequately for that loss?

Finally, I note that one big increase in quota is for blue whiting, which has increased by 80%, against the strong wishes of the UK and Scottish Governments, who wanted a more cautious approach on that species. How much of the increased value of this deal for the UK fishing industry relies on that increased quota for blue whiting, which the UK Government fought against?

Mark Spencer

Clearly, this deal is better than what we would have negotiated had we been within the EU. I hear the hon. Gentleman’s comments about market access, and we continue to work with our colleagues in Europe to secure better access to those markets. That is all part of a long-term strategy to negotiate with our friends on the other side of the channel. Clearly, the 30,000 tonnes we were able to negotiate is a significant amount of fish, and better than we would have done as an EU member state.

I also say gently to the hon. Gentleman that this time we have seen increases in cod; in whiting and in saithe in the North sea; in megrims and in anglerfish in the Irish sea; in nephrops in the Irish sea and the Celtic sea; in nephrops in the west of Scotland; and in hake and in spurdog in the western area. I could keep going down the list, but we secured a good deal for the UK. Scotland gets its fair share of that deal, and I would have hoped that he would be more positive, on behalf of his Scottish fishermen, than he has been.