THE European Union referendum debate has moved into seafood with the UK Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss claiming fishermen are benefiting hugely from easy access to the EU markets.
She said 85 per cent of all UK shellfish exports, worth £360 million, headed for European shores last year.
Commenting on the latest exports figures, she said: ‘From seafood paella in Madrid to coquilles Saint Jacques in Paris, these figures show seafood caught off UK shores have a prominent place on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves across Europe.
‘Since 2012, our scallop exports to France have leapt by almost 18 per cent to the highest level since records began.
‘Langoustine exports to Mediterranean countries like Spain were worth £80 million and salmon exports, to all 27 EU member states, were worth £220 million to the economy in revenue in 2015.’
Truss said UK fishermen currently have easy access to Europe, free from tariffs or other unnecessary red tape, but outside the EU the potential loss to fish and shellfish exporters could be up to £100 million, with an average tariff of 10 per cent.
‘UK fishermen continue to reap the benefits of easy access, tariff-free, to the world’s largest single market of 500 million consumers.
‘That is why it’s great to see UK companies flying the flag for our fishing industry in Brussels this week and using the opportunity to take advantage of easy access to the EU market.
‘Exports of all UK fish and fish products to the EU were worth over £900 million to our growing economy in 2015, almost 70 per cent of our total exports for the sector.
‘In total, 60 per cent of our food and drink exports go to the EU, worth over £11 billion to our economy.’
She added that as part of the EU, Britain has automatic access to member state waters. And by leading on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, the UK government delivered a better deal for its fishermen, securing changes including ending the wasteful practice of discarding, giving power back to countries and fishermen through regional fisheries management, and a legal commitment to fish sustainably.
Sustainable fishing has led to stock recovery, allowing significant quota increases for 2016 in iconic species such as cod and haddock in the North Sea and plaice in the English Channel.
Picture: Elizabeth Truss enjoying Scottish salmon