Michael Gove has sparked anger by promising that Danish fishing vessels would still be allowed to catch “large amounts” of fish in British waters after Brexit.
The UK Environment Secretary infuriated the SNP who claimed his remarks were at odds with UK Government pledges that EU withdrawal would benefit the Scottish fishing industry by taking back control of waters.
Mr Gove attempted to reassure the Danish food industry when on a visit to the Scandinavian country.
He said: “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.”
Previously, Mr Gove had said that becoming an independent coastal state would extend the UK’s control over waters to 200 miles.
He also said British fishermen will have the exclusive rights to a 12-mile zone around the coastline under after Brexit as the UK would no longer be bound by the Common Fisheries Policy.
A Defra spokesman insisted that the UK Government’s position had not changed, saying that it had always been the case that some foreign vessels would get access to British waters. But leaving the EU meant that it would be under the UK’s terms. SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson attacked Mr Gove’s comments. “You cannot trust the Tories to stand up for rural Scotland’s interests,” he said. “They might well be trying to keep voters and fishermen sweet at home with all sorts of promises – yet Michael Gove is jet-setting around Europe reassuring EU members that there’ll be nothing of the sort. “Michael Gove must immediately make absolutely clear what the UK government’s real position on the future of fisheries is. He could start by confirming that devolved powers over fisheries will transfer to Scotland so that we can get on with developing our own management policies which put Scottish fishing interests offshore and onshore, first. “It is simply too important an industry for too many of our communities, particularly in my constituency, for him to continue promising one thing in public at home whilst saying the complete opposite in private to international audiences.”
A Defra spokesman said: “Leaving the EU means we will take back control of our territorial waters. As we have always said, other countries will be able to access our waters – but for the first time in 50 years it will be on our terms and under our control. “We will allocate quotas on the basis of what is scientifically sustainable, making sure we have a healthy marine environment and profitable fishing industry in the UK.”