Labour bid to pressure ministers over post-Brexit fishing 'betrayal'
Labour will seek to exploit Conservative divisions over post-Brexit fishing policy today as the Government's flagship Fisheries Bill heads back to the Commons.
The issue has become a key flashpoint for the Government, with the Tories' 13 Scottish MPs last week writing to Theresa May to demand that the UK does not stay in the EU's Common Fisheries Policy after the post-Brexit transition period ends.
They fear that any extension to the transition period will leave the UK locked into the policy, which currently dictates where UK fishing boats are able to fish and how much they are allowed to catch.
In a bid to embarrass the Government, Labour will today table a string of amendments to the Fisheries Bill calling on Environment Secretary Michael Gove to use existing powers to give small fleets a bigger chunk of the UK's fishing quota.
The party is arguing that Mr Gove does not need to wait for Brexit to shift the balance between smaller fleets and big trawlers.
Shadow Fisheries Minister Luke Pollard said: "By ignoring the needs of smaller fishing fleets, this Government is betraying British fishing.
"Michael Gove could take action to redistribute fishing quota now if he wanted to but he is failing by not delivering quota reallocation in the Fisheries Bill."
The Opposition pointed out that smaller boats currently have just six percent of the UK's total fishing quota, with around two-thirds of the UK's CFP allocations carved up by three big multi-national companies.
"Labour will ensure that fishing quota isn’t monopolised by the few," Mr Pollard said.
"Fishing reform could usher in a huge regeneration of coastal towns but not unless ministers drastically improve the Fisheries Bill."
But a Conservative spokesperson hit back, saying the party would "always support the interests of British fishermen".
"Just a few months ago, Labour MEPs supported a bid to keep us inside the Common Fisheries Policy permanently, despite decades of damage to the UK fishing industry," they added.
"If Labour really care about UK fishermen and our coastal communities, they will back our landmark Fisheries Bill to ensure we can take back control of our waters, and decide who may fish there and on what terms."
A Tory source meanwhile said ministers would "continue to review areas where we can support" smaller fleets, and said an additional 1,250 tonnes of quota had already been handed to small fleets in the past year.