Derek Thomas welcomes Michael Gove’s statement on the future of fishing and his commitment to help Newlyn.

West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas has welcomed the Environment Secretary’s statement that the Government will look to support the regeneration of Newlyn and its fishing industry as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

Michael Gove made the commitment on Wednesday following his statement on the White Paper ‘Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations’, setting out the Government’s plans for the industry following the UK’s departure from the EU.

The Environment Secretary said that from 2021 the UK would control fishing access to a 200 nautical mile "exclusive economic zone" around its coastline and that there was no reason the UK should be in a "weaker position" than Norway or Iceland - which retain 80% and 95% respectively of fish caught in their territorial waters.

In addition, Mr Gove said market access for fish exports - which has yet to be negotiated between the UK and the EU - would be treated separately from the question of access to each other's waters. The EU has previously suggested that the two issues should be tied together.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate, Mr Thomas said the Environment Secretary’s statement would come as ‘a relief’ for those working in the sector in Newlyn and West Cornwall.

He also urged Mr Gove to consider how he can support the sector to prepare for a more active and vibrant fishing sector “after years of decline and the erosion of the fleet, skills and infrastructure as a result of the Common Fisheries Policy”.

Mr Gove, who visited West Cornwall with Mr Thomas and Fisheries Minister George Eustice last September, said Newlyn was one of the most important ports in the South West.

“We will do everything that we can to make sure that the harbour gets the investment it needs in order to regenerate and to take advantage of the additional opportunities that life outside the Common Fisheries Policy can provide.”

Speaking after the debate, Mr Thomas said: “Although I shared the massive disappointment that many felt when it was announced that, under the terms of the transition deal, fishing will effectively remain part of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy throughout the 21-month implementation period, there is no doubt that ministers are aware of the huge cultural and economic importance of the fishing industry to coastal communities and this is reflected in the White Paper.

“I believe the fishing community in West Cornwall - individual fishermen and organisations like the CFPO (Cornwall Fish Producers Organisation) – deserve great credit for the way they have shared their knowledge and engaged constructively to help the Government understand the issues and the significance of the industry.”