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MPs have been encouraged to back a flagship Brexit legislation which will implement controls on foreign vessels seeking to access UK fishing waters. The SNP have attempted to block any further amendments to the bill until the outcome of the Brexit trade negotiations is known.
Brexit negotiations are still ongoing, but both sides have been in deadlock for some time over key areas of the post Brexit relationship between the UK and the EU.
In June both sides agreed to intensify talks over the summer to work towards a deal on trade and the future relationship, after extremely sluggish progress during the first few months of negotiations.
At the end of the most recent round of talks in August, according to David Frost and Michel Barnier, there had been progress on energy co-operation, participation in union programmes and anti-money laundering, but no progress has been made on fisheries and state aid.
An agreement needs to be reached by the end of October so it can be ratified and passed by the EU and UK’s responsible institutions.
What is in the Brexit Fisheries Bill?
The fisheries bill creates the powers for the country to operate as an independent coastal state and manage its fish stocks outside European Union rules.
The legislation enables the UK to become an independent coastal state post-Brexit, with foreign fishing boats barred from fishing in UK waters unless licensed to do so.
The Common Fisheries Policy currently sets out how much British fishermen can catch and where.
It also allows vessels registered elsewhere in the EU to fish in UK waters – but the new legislation will end those automatic rights of access.
Instead, access will be for the UK to negotiate in the future and foreign vessels will have to be licensed if they fish in British waters.
The bill sets down in law that all fish stocks must be fished at sustainable levels, and aims to ensure species such as dolphins are protected.
It also includes measures on “climate-smart fishing” to consider the impact of climate change on the sector – for example, if fish populations move as a result of rising temperatures.
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As well as this it will also ensure that UK boats can continue to access any part of UK waters, as they do now regardless, whether they are registered in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
Fishing is a major sticking point in Brexit negotiations, and Scotland are particularly keen to have a say in the bill, as the country has a world-class fishing industry.
The bill has been making its way through the houses, with different parties making different demands of amendments to the bill.
The SNP has asked the Scottish Tories to tow the line of constituents rather than the Westminster powers, with the SNP worried Scotland could lose out if it is locked out of talks as a devolved power.
The bill is currently at the committee stage, which will meet on September 8.
It had its second reading in the House of Commons on September 1, following its passage through the Lords.
If a deal between the EU and the UK is not brokered before the transition period ends in December, then the UK will drop out of both the customs union and the single market – putting significant tariffs on goods entering and leaving the UK.
Other important matters such as cooperation on security and terrorism, education and science risk being left up in the air if no detailed agreement is reached on future EU-UK relations.
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