The Environment Secretary has given strongest of assurances to West Cornwall fishermen that the UK will take back control of its territorial waters and quotas once the country has left the EU.
Andrea Leadsom also told farmers that the industry was in her blood and that she wanted their views on how to shape the industry post-Brexit.
Accompanied by local Conservative candidate Derek Thomas and Defra Minister George Eustice, Mrs Leadsom was speaking at the Godolphin Arms in Marazion on Wednesday evening at a supper of Newlyn fish and chips attended by more than 30 local farmers and fishermen.
She explained that the regulations surrounding the food, farming and fishing sector comprised more than 25 per cent of the EU legislation affecting the UK but that the Cabinet was united in placing the sector as a top priority in Brexit negotiations.
“We have to create a new future for the food and fishing industries,” she said.
“George (Eustice) and I are working very hard on the Brexit programme. We have a team of 600 in place who have already done a huge amount of analysis on what is best for Britain.
“We anticipate very strong negotiations with the EU but we are ready for every eventuality.”
Fishing, she said, was “an iconic part of the UK economy”, and insisted: “We are ready to take back control – control of our waters and control of our quotas.
“Leaving the EU will be good news for the industry. There will be compromises but I am sure we will get a better deal and a better future for our fishermen.”
She then appealed to farmers to be part of the process of creating a new blueprint for agriculture to replace the cumbersome and inefficient Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
“We want to hold a major consultation on how the farming sector should look after we have left the EU,” she said.
“The industry needs to grow more, sell more and export more at the same time leaving the environment in a better place.”
There were, she added, huge opportunities for farmers to sell their products around the world.
“We have the third best standards of animal welfare in the world and places like China, where there are 300 million wealthy middle class people, who are desperate to enjoy top quality produce.”
After her speech, Mrs Leadsom answered a number of questions – topics covered included: dairy farming; the availability of foreign labour to harvest seasonal produce; the lack of young farmers in the industry; Bovine TB legislation; the importance of educating children about food production and a plea that the UK’s fishing grounds should not be used as a bargaining tool in Brexit negotiations.
Thanking Mrs Leadsom and Mr Eustice for coming to the constituency, Mr Thomas said: “As we leave the EU, we need a strong team to make sure Britain gets the best possible deal.
“I believe that Andrea and George will have convinced the West Cornwall fishermen and farmers who came along tonight that their interests are best served by voting to ensure they continue with their vital work.”
Before the supper, Mrs Leadsom had helped to launch Mr Thomas’s election campaign in Penzance, praising his work as a new MP.
“He works very, very hard for his constituents,” she said. “He has been a strong voice in Parliament and punches well above his weight.”