Labour caution on quotas

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Indy Politics
The Government made a sharp change of tack on the issue of quota-hopping foreign vessels yesterday.

During the election campaign Labour insisted that once in power it was prepared to block crucial Inter-governmental Conference (IGC) talks on the future of the European Union unless Britain's demands were met.

But yesterday Jack Cunningham, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said Britain wanted to avoid making quota-hopping a sticking point at the IGC's concluding talks in Amsterdam next month.

Less than a month ago the Tories promised that they would block final agreement at the talks if the other 14 member- states did not agree on adding a protocol outlawing quota- hopping to the Treaty of Rome, the EU's founding treaty.

At the time Tony Blair told BBC Radio 4: "We certainly have not ruled out holding up IGC business in order to get the right changes to fishing policies that are in Britain's interest."

The conclusions of the IGC will settle the future direction and development of the EU.

Yesterday, however, Mr Cunningham told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have to steer clear of making that a major issue at the Inter-governmental Conference. I think these problems of BSE and quota-hopping have a different timescale and they will be solved by strong representations from British ministers ... on a continuous basis. I don't expect them to form a significant part of the discussions at the IGC.''

Later a Foreign Office spokeswoman said that the Government was not insisting on a new protocol to outlaw quota-hopping, but it was determined to make progress on the issue.