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Withdrawal Agreement Bill Fisheries

I welcome the second reading of the legislation. During his passage, I would like to consider a number of issues. The first is the heart of post-Brexit fisheries policy: how will the UK have access to fish stocks and how will our former EU partners have access to these stocks in our waters? The government is oversimpling things by saying that asserting our waters is its priority, because that is only part of the problem. Is it not true that the United Kingdom risks losing some useful areas outside British waters, where we are currently fishing, but where we may have exclusive access to less useful areas? While almost all major economic stocks are in the UK`s exclusive economic zone, we fish in the waters of other EU Member States. The bill provides for the obligation to develop fisheries management plans and, if necessary, decentralized jurisdictions to meet our clear commitment. These plans outline our plans to achieve the sustainability of these resource-based or fisheries-based stocks. Plans go further than in the past for stocks for which sustainability assessment is much more difficult. Many of them are valuable stocks of bivalve molluscs. The plans require us, in circumstances where we do not have the scientific data to assess their health, to develop the scientific database on which we will then be able to do so.

Fishing declarations and fisheries management plans will be legally binding. Before the Brexit vote in 2016, former British Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw warned that political opposition to the closure of British waters was to be expected. “The idea that if we voted in favour of leaving the EU, our neighbours, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and others, would fall and allow us to set a limit of 200 miles is for birds,” he said in response to Eustice, who had argued that this was possible. [137]23 The following year, Danish fishermen prepared to take action against exclusion from British waters after Brexit from a historical point of view, arguing that they had been allowed to fish there continuously since the 15th century. Anders Samuelsen, then Danish Foreign Minister, said many small communities along the west coast of Jutland were economically dependent on the fact that the country`s fishing fleet still had access to the UK EEZ, from which it took 40% of its annual catch. “The British claim to recover the waters is absurd because we never had them,” said Niels Wachmann, head of the Danish Fishermen`s Association. “Maybe for oil or gas, but not for fish.” [147] Richard Barnes, a law professor at the University of Hull, agrees and writes that UNCLOS grants states only administration and not full responsibility for their EEZ, and a common form of fisheries management, including access to each other`s waters, is likely. [148] According to a member of the public, fishermen must have thought that a large part of their catches after Brexit would not be subject to British quotas, a policy that the EU would never accept, making a fishing agreement between the parties highly unlikely.