Michael Gove: The EU’s demands over fishing trade deal are “most ambitious”

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Michael Gove has suggest a fishery deal for the UK similar to that of Norway
Michael Gove has suggest a fishery deal for the UK similar to that of Norway

Related tags: Brexit

The EU’s ask over fisheries is the “most ambitious” in its negotiations with the UK, the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove has told a committee in the House of Lords.

The EU wants to retain the current access to UK waters that it does under the Commons Fisheries Policy. 

He said that “quite rightly​” the EU had said that, as the UK was leaving the EU, “you no longer have the same rights”​ and there needed to be new arrangements. 

“In the same way, when we leave, the EU cannot have the same access to UK waters as it has under the Common Fisheries Policy. The situation will have changed,”​ he said.  

“This is the area where the EU’s ask is the most ambitious.” 

Sovereignty

While he agreed that the fisheries market was not a major part of the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP), he said this was a matter of “sovereignty​” and “principle​”.

He said the UK wanted an annual negotiation in the same way that Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands had and not a multi-annual agreement.  

Why would the EU not want to give the UK the same degree of sovereign independent status and respect as it would to the Faroe Islands​?” he added. 

He said he had concerns about the Common Fisheries Policy, which he did not believe worked, either economically or environmentally. 

Despite concerns about the timeframe of leaving the EU, Gove added that the Government did not believe there was a need for any extension beyond the end of the year. 

He said the UK was asking for an agreement based on a precedent and was not asking for “bespoke​” or “off the peg​” arrangements.  

 

COVID-19

He added that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic meant businesses were already dealing with the reshaping of supply chains.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has meant there has been increased awareness of the importance of domestic production in certain areas and disruption of supply chains in others,”​ he said.

For vital supply chains in the UK, such as food and drink, there was an incentive for the EU to want to retain that free flow, he added. 

 “Because economies of countries like France, Spain and the Netherlands and so on rely, to a significant extent when it comes to agri-foods, on exports to the UK,”​ he said.  

The UK would maintain its own standards for animal welfare and Gove said these could be closer to the EU than the US. 

This was not to “win brownie points from the EU​”, but were the standards that were right for the UK, he explained. 

On the US trade deal, he said difficulties for the agricultural sector in America could impact the negotiations. 

“There is a stronger reason for the US to want to ensure it can have good access to the UK for its agrifood products,”​ he said.

In March, George Eustice, secretary of state for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, dismissed claims​ that fishing will be used as a bargaining chip in the UK’s trade agreement with the EU. 

A month earlier UK-based fish processors were pushing for the Government​ to close trade deals with countries outside the EU, such as Norway and Iceland. 

Related topics: Brexit

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