Spain is a menace that is “hoovering up fish” from anywhere she can find it, a Conservative MP said today.
Tensions between Spain and the UK have risen since the construction of an artificial reef by the Gibraltar government earlier this year, which the Spanish said interfered with their fishermen.
Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, told the Commons no other country more than Spain “muscles in” when it comes to fishing.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee member was speaking during a debate on the fishing industry as discussion turned to reforms to the European Union’s common fisheries policy, which seeks to improve fish stocks.
After Tory Anne McIntosh had referred to Spain having historic rights to fish in UK waters before 1973, Mr Parish told her: “When you talk about Spain and Spain getting access to basically what was historically our waters I think one of the problems is right back to the Common Fisheries Policy, because once you have a common fisheries policy then everybody muscles in and nobody more than Spain.
“Spain will hoover up fish not only off of our shores but off the shores of Africa, anywhere she can find it and she is a menace and I am quite happy to say that in this House.”
Miss McIntosh, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee chairman, replied “Well as some of my best friends are Spanish and hopefully will not be following the debate too closely, whatever I wish Spain to access in our waters I am sure they would wish to have reciprocal rights for our fishermen in their waters. On that basis perhaps we could reach agreement.”
Kelvin Hopkins, the Labour MP for Luton North, said Prime Minister David Cameron should make it a priority to renegotiate the common fisheries policy, which regulates fishing in European waters, with other EU leaders, as part of his wider treaty discussions.
He said: “The Common Fisheries Policy, I think, was a terrible mistake and it has been a disaster for Britain and the fishing waters around the coast of the European Union.
“Reforms come and reforms go, and we have seen some improvement and movement towards European regionalisation. It is a tacit acceptance that we have got to have some local control.
“The obvious local control is national local control, which means effectively the abolition of the common fisheries policy in time. I think that is the way we should go.
“I have suggested in the past that we ought to perhaps give five years’ notice that we should withdraw unilaterally from the common fisheries policy if we can’t get agreement within the European Union.
“Indeed, I think that should be one of the negotiating planks when the Prime Minister is renegotiating our relationship with the European Union. The common fisheries policy would be my number one policy for disposal.”