Environment Secretary Mr Gove, who played a key role in the Leave campaign ahead of the EU referendum, is calling on Britain to rally behind a new approach to protecting British agriculture and fishing as he condemned the EU’s “harmful” fisheries policy.
He is calling for the establishment of “a new, world-leading, independent statutory body to hold the government to account on the environment” in order to facilitate a ‘Green Brexit’.
Mr Gove said: “It is undoubtedly the case that some policies integral to the EU, such as aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), have done damage.
“During our membership there have also been actions for good — particularly around environmental principles and governance. We see this in the attention paid to high standards of biosecurity, cleaner air and beaches, and the protection of certain wildlife species.
“Yet one of the main reasons why I campaigned for the UK to leave the EU was the long-term harm inflicted by the CAP and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Both have been reformed in their time… but neither properly put the environment first.”
Launching an attack on CAP Mr Gove said the policy helps to fill the pockets of the wealthy and does not insist on the preservation of land for natural resources and wildlife.
With Britain’s fisheries hugely affected by EU policies and quotas, Mr Gove slammed the EU for undermining British communities.
Referencing his upbringing in a coastal community in the northeast of Scotland, he said: “I know first-hand how the CFP has led to over-fishing and undermines local economies.
“In the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea, many stocks are still being fished at unsustainable levels. And while our fleet catches on average around 120,000 tons of fish from other member states’ waters, EU vessels catch more than 850,000 tons of fish in UK waters.”
It remains unclear whether Britain will be tied to the CFP and EU fishing quotas during the Brexit transition but fishermen in the UK are already demanding that Britain must be free of the policies as soon as possible.
Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishing Federation, said it would be “absolutely unacceptable” for Britain to be kept tied to the CFP framework during the two-year transition period.
The prospect of losing access to UK waters has struck fear into some fishing communities in mainland Europe, with job losses expected in northern European ports if access to UK waters is denied.
Mr Gove said Brexit presents Britain the opportunity to reclaim control over the environment.
Writing for Politico, he said: “We believe there is a better way. If Brexit is our chance to take back control of our laws and our money, Green Brexit is our chance to give the environment a voice in this time of national renewal.
“Once the UK regains control over environmental policy we will draw upon our record of conservation, home and abroad, to take full advantage.
“Future financial support for farming will see public money paying for public goods, incentivising more sustainable land use and the creation of new wildlife habitats. We will support farmers to plant more wildflowers and trees, restore habitats for endangered species and improve soil fertility.
“As an island nation, we will develop a fishing policy that ensures the seas teem with life, tackles the scandal of marine pollution and extends protected areas to preserve our precious maritime heritage.”