Speaking during a session with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee today (5 September), he said that fishermen would have a “big increase” in their fishing opportunities because the UK would have control of its own resources.
“Industry has nothing to fear from a no-deal Brexit because fishing is the one of the key areas that we would gain by having that more rapid control of our waters,” he said.
“Whether there is an agreement or not an agreement.”
Chair of the committee MP Neil Parish said the EU fished around £600m a year out of UK waters while UK fishermen only take £100m from the waters of EU countries.
“There is no doubt when it comes to the negotiation that some of the good cards we have in our hand are fisheries,” he said.
“They are going to try to hold on to that fish. Are you confident that you are not giving away our future rights?”
Eustice said the Government had a “clear position” and considered fisheries separate from other negotiations.
He said the UK was seeking a free trade agreement for British lamb, British barley and fisheries produce, including shellfish. The EU, in return, wanted access for Irish beef, Danish and French dairy produce and pork from Denmark.
“We don’t see any precedent or any need for that to be linked to the fisheries negotiation,” he added.
Eustice did admit that if the EU sought tariffs on fish, that could have an impact on demand, but called the move a “tax on European consumers”.
On concerns raised for the fish processing market in the UK, Eustice said he did not envisage any issues with importing fish from Norway or Iceland.
“There won’t be any trouble with importing those goods because we have agreements with Norway and Iceland and others,” he said.
“Fisheries isn’t covered by the single market. They have a preferential trade agreement on fisheries with the EU.”
He said that, in the future, the UK would agree a preferential agreement with these countries.
He admitted there might be an issue with fish that was processed and then exported back to the EU.
However, Parish said that, in Europe, there was an “insatiable” desire for fish and he did not think the EU would take the tariffs approach to fish imports from the UK.
Eustice said that not all fish exported from the UK was destined for the EU.
“The fish species we export most of is salmon, most of it is farmed in Scotland. France is one of the largest markets, but the US is not far behind,” he said.
“We also export a quite lot of shellfish, particularly scallops to the EU and crabs as well.”
However, he said that the UK also exported shellfish to China and mackerel to Nigeria.
The UK would rejoin the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission and the North Atlantic Fisheries Organisation, he confirmed.