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No scaling back: Gove clashes with Welsh Government over call to ‘back down’ on Brexit fishing demands

29 Oct 2020 2 minute read
Picture by the Policy Exchange (CC BY 2.0).

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has clashed with the Welsh Government after they asked him to “back down” on Brexit negotiations over fishing rights.

In a letter published yesterday, Michael Gove said that he did “strongly disagree with your premise that we should ‘back down’ on fisheries”.

Two weeks ago Wales’ Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles had written to the UK Government warning that thousands of jobs should not be “sacrificed” for the sake of fishing quotas in UK trade negotiations with the EU.

He urged UK ministers to “back down” from “ill-advised positions on state aid and fisheries” to get a trade deal with the European Union.



Fisheries remains one of the main sticking points in the talks, despite making up only 0.12% of GDP.

The UK wants access to EU markets to sell its fish, but in return EU states want to maintain the same access as they have now to some of the UK’s waters.

But in yesterday’s letter Michael Gove said that “the UK Government’s view is that in all circumstances, the UK must be an independent coastal state, no longer be bound by the Common Fisheries Policy”.

“Our position is reasonable and seeks the best outcome for the whole UK, informed by discussions with the Welsh Government and other devolved administrations on fisheries priorities,” he said.

“We seek a separate fisheries framework agreement which reflects our international law rights and is based on the scientific principle of zonal attachment. This is squarely in line with the precedent of the EU’s fisheries agreement with Norway.”

In his letter to Michael Gove, Mr Miles said the UK government must “back down from its ill-advised positions on state aid and fisheries in order to reach a deal”.

“Given the importance of being able to sell our fishing catches to the EU, access to the EU single market far outweighs the issue of access to UK waters.

“And the interests of the economy as a whole – with the fate of thousands of businesses and millions of jobs at stake – must not be sacrificed over fishing quotas in UK waters.”

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