Post-Brexit deal for fishermen not worked, says Plymouth Tory candidate

Devon and Cornwall’s fishers have had “a raw deal post-Brexit” under the Conservatives, admitted one party member standing for election in Plymouth.

Gareth Streeter, parliamentary candidate for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said south west MPs needed to stand “shoulder to shoulder” to get a better deal for the region’s fishing industry, whoever is in government.

“Unfortunately our post-Brexit fisheries’ policy has been designed to favour Scotland fundamentally, with a view of keeping Scotland within the European Union,” he said at a Devon Chamber business hustings, in association with Radio Exe, held at Plymouth University.

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Sophie Paterson of Food Plymouth had asked four candidates how they would work to protect local fishing businesses following the closure of Plymouth Trawler Agents in May which had caused “significant uncertainty” locally.

Mr Streeter said: “I think our fishers have had a raw deal. Whichever party wins the general election, MPs must say they will withhold support on crucial votes including budgets if the government does not deliver a better deal for Devon and Cornwall fishermen, because it was something that we promised them and we have got to finally start delivering on it.”

He said negotiations are needed with the EU as agreeing quotas was necessary. “We never said in Brexit that we wouldn’t have bilateral agreements with countries from the European Union,” he said. “We just need to make sure they benefit the whole of the UK coastline, not just Scotland.”

Stephen Horner (Reform UK, standing in South West Devon) claimed Britain’s fishing industry had been decimated for decades, with fewer boats and fewer fishermen, whilst other countries grew their businesses and that had not improved since the country left the EU.

Reform UKs Stephen Horner. Image courtesy: Reform UK -Credit:Copyright Unknown
Reform UKs Stephen Horner. Image courtesy: Reform UK -Credit:Copyright Unknown

He told business leaders and students: “Regulation has to be spot on for what we need and not something generated by some faceless department that is justifying itself.

“Local fisherman say they still see French and Spanish boats really close to where they fish. The rules are not being enforced. Fish is still being hoovered up by other nations

“We have to protect our fishing grounds, make life simpler, regulatory wise, for the fishermen and, if necessary, help with training for new fishermen. It’s important that we talk to the fishermen.”

Daniel Steel (Labour, competing for South Devon) said his party will ensure that 50 per cent of food in hospitals and government buildings would come from the UK and this would have an impact on local fishers.

Currently 80 per cent of the UK catch is exported overseas, he said, and that Labour policy would change how local fish is used.

He said the UK’s first national marine park in Plymouth and a planned city centre skills hub focusing on green and marine jobs shows how vital the sea and its industries are to Plymouth.

Julian Brazil (Lib Dem, standing in South West Devon) said “I welcome Gareth’s candour about post-Brexit fishing. It’s been a disaster. There are more rules and regulations than there ever were under the European Union.” He said quotas are needed for sustainable fishing and should be set regionally.

“A more regional base would be better, so we can have a negotiating position with the fishermen and discussing it with local officials about what is best for the local area.”

Julian Brazil - Lib Dems Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South West Devon
Labour candidate Daniel Steel

Mr Steel, a former foreign office official, said this isn’t feasible because fishing policy is decided at a national level, which is the law.

“You don’t have have local officials investigating. It is not helpful for local politicians to put forward ideas that in the long term would not be helpful. Use the negotiating power of the United Kingdom, because it is in turn better for us all.”

Mr Brazil said the law is antiquated and MPs had the power to change the law if it isn’t working.

Plymouth Trawler Agents wound up its operation earlier this year after running the fish market at Sutton Harbour for 30 years. It is hoped a new operator can be found.