Leave campaigner and Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove has shocked the British fishing industry by walking back a pledge to end the exploitation of Britain’s waters by EU vessels, saying they “will still be able to catch large amounts of fish” on a visit to Denmark.
“Danish fishermen will still be able to catch large amounts of fish in British waters, even if the British leave the EU. Britain has no fish cutters [those employed to clean, trim and bone fish] and production facilities enough to catch all the fish in British waters,” he said.
— Fishing for Leave (@fishingforleave) August 4, 2017
“Secretary of State Michael Gove’s comments to the Danish fishing industry are astonishing and disappointing,” commented the Fishing for Leave campaign, which organised the seaborne protest now remembered as the Battle of the Thames in EU referendum lore.
“Despite the continued meetings, engagement and reassurances which the industry has been given since the referendum, Mr Gove’s comments abroad … suggest the Government’s private position sadly contradicts its public pronouncements.”
WATCH: Gove's father speak on the EU and his fishing business [VIDEO] https://t.co/CbmPhdXSr8
— Guido Fawkes (@GuidoFawkes) June 15, 2016
Growing up in Aberdeen, Gove saw his family become one among tens of thousands which had depended on fishing for their livelihood but lost it thanks to EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
He had previously pledged that “foreign fishing” within Britain’s 12 miles of territorial waters would end, but concern remained that the Tories would sell out the country’s fishermen on the larger, 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone — currently controlled by Brussels.
The Government appeared to clarify it stance later, with a junior minister in Gove’s department claiming Britain would indeed take back control of this zone, and redress the balance between British fishing vessels, which catch about 150,000 metric tons of fish in EU waters, and EU vessels, which catch about 700,000 metric tons of fish in British waters.
Gove’s claim that EU vessels will, in fact, continue to catch “large amounts” of British fish due to the British fishing fleet being too small — due largely to the extremely negative impact of EU policy — has therefore been seen as a betrayal.
“The information Mr Gove has been briefed, that Britain doesn’t have the capacity to harvest our own resources, is erroneous in the extreme,” said Fishing for Leave.
“The disastrous CFP has shackled and starved our industry of its own resources as EU vessels catch 59% of the fish in British waters as the UK industry has struggled to survive.
“Therefore, under a fit for purpose UK policy the British fleet can easily harvest the fish the EU fleet is otherwise taking for free.
“Even if the UK fleet didn’t have the short-term capacity, the priority should be to husband and utilise our own nation’s resources to build our industry and communities back up, not just forgo them to the EU.”