Could fisheries prick the SNP’s bubble in Scotland?

The roots of the SNP lie in the coastal communities, especially the fishing communities that in the 1960s were safe Conservative seats. It was Edward Heath’s surrender of our fishing industry which  provided the impetus for SNP’s subsequent growth. Alex Salmond, the previous leader of the SNP, once put forward a private members Bill to take back control of UK fishing grounds of 200 nautical miles/median line zone during his first stint as a Westminster MP.

How times have changed! Power has gone to the SNP’s head and now they do not want to be in an union with the UK but want Scotland to be part of the Union of the EU.

But what would happen if, following Brexit, Scotland voted for independence and then re-joined the EU? The membership terms are unequivocal: Scotland would have to hand back her Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to the EU on the basis of equal access to a common resource without discrimination, and not increasing fishing effort.

Furthermore, the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy state that EU fishing capacity must be balanced to EU marine resource, and with the loss to the EU of the UK’s EEZ, even though Scotland would have its own EEZ, the loss of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish EEZs would result in the EU having to reduce its overall fishing capacity, but that reduced number of vessels would have to share in that reduced capacity – including Scotland’s EEZ.

So if the SNP were to take an independent Scotland back into the EU, it would result in a further decline in the Scottish fleet, finishing off the already devastated coastal communities that originally helped to create the SNP.

It does not end there. The territorial waters of 12 nautical miles come back to the coastal state through a transitional derogation which expires on 31st. December 2022 and would have to be renewed. With the rest of the UK out of the EU and our Accession treaty of 1972 (which was the main reason for the 12 mile derogation) now confined to history, why would the EU wish to offer a fresh derogation covering Scottish waters only? In other words, Scotland could find herself with the EU vessels fishing up to her beaches.

The SNP will huff and puff over this, saying they will negotiate, but there is no way out. These are the rules of EU membership. If, therefore, the SNP is so desperate to rejoin the EU, it would be at the cost of destroying the party’s roots.

The Conservatives, who are currently looking to become the main challengers to the SNP north of the border, would benefit immensely from including a clear fishing policy on the lines we have proposed in their manifesto. Who knows, it may enable them to recapture those seats they lost in the the 1960s and 1970s and tear the heart out of the SNP?

Fisheries: Oral questions following the Prime Minister’s statement

Following on from Mrs May’s announcement last week that Article 50 had finally been triggered, it was encouraging to note how many oral and written questions on the subject of fisheries were asked. Equally encouraging were the answers from the Prime Minister. We are still some way off from any definitive statement about future fisheries policies, but there seems to be a growing recognition of the problems that would ensue by transposing fisheries Regulation 1380/2013 onto the UK statute books.   Here are the questions and answers in full, with my observations and comments in italics:-

 ORAL QUESTIONS

(1) Mr Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con)

May I thank my right hon. Friend for and congratulate her on resolutely sticking to her promise to the British people to trigger article 50 before the end of March? There will be celebrations all around the country, nowhere more so than in our remote coastal communities, where the health and wealth of our fishing grounds has been trashed by the common fisheries policy. To re-establish fully our national control of the full exclusive economic zone, we will have to abrogate our membership of the 1964 London convention on fisheries, which requires two years’ notice. Does my right hon. Friend intend to trigger that soon?

The Prime Minister

I know that my right hon. Friend has always had a particular interest in the impact of the common fisheries policy, and he has looked at that issue very carefully. We are looking very carefully at the London fisheries convention and at what action needs to be taken. He is right that this would require two years, but we of course expect to conclude the deal with the European Union within two years and there will then, as I have indicated, be an implementation period beyond that particular time. We hope to be able to say something about the London fisheries convention soon

(At least we have confirmation that they know all about London convention – JA)

(2) Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab)

On what is a genuinely historic day for our country, may I pay tribute to the Prime Minister and to the Brexit Ministers for their determination and dedication in getting to this stage today to implement the will of the British people? Does she agree that one area on which we should be able to move forward very quickly in negotiations is getting back control of our fishing grounds?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), the former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, mentioned the London fisheries convention. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking at this issue and we hope to be able to say something soon. As we look at the whole raft of negotiations, we will be looking at policies that affect not just trade in goods and services, but agriculture and fisheries here in the United Kingdom, and security and crime. We will be looking particularly at the London fisheries convention in due course

(Further confirmation that Fisheries are being looked into)

(3) Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)

For those of us who campaigned and voted for Brexit not just last year, but in 1975 this is a great day and one for celebration. Some 70% of my Cleethorpes constituents and of those in neighbouring Grimsby voted for Brexit last June, partly as a result of continuing anger and resentment at the sell-out of the fishing industry in the original negotiations. The Prime Minister has already reassured me that the fishing industry will be looked after, but the associated seafood industry is very much dependent on the fishing industry. I have already met industry leaders in my constituency who see both opportunities and concerns, so will she reassure me that the seafood processing industry will be a key part of the negotiations?

The Prime Minister

I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that we want to ensure not only that we get a good future for our fishing industry, but that those parts of industry that rely on fishing will also have a good future here in the UK. We will be taking that into account.

(This looks as if they are keen to address the concerns of fishermen, but do they fully understand the pitfalls?)

(4) Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con)

I welcome the Prime Minister’s clear commitment to a positive, constructive and respectful approach to the negotiations that lie ahead. May I press her further on behalf of the fishing community in my constituency and around the United Kingdom? She will know that in the past these people have been badly let down during negotiations, so ​will she give an equally clear commitment that the fishing community will receive a sufficiently high priority during the negotiations ahead?

The Prime Minister

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that we are very conscious of the needs of the fishing industry. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been talking to the fishing industry. The Secretary of State and others have been looking carefully at the arrangements that will need to be put in place in the interests of the fishing industry, and that will be an important part of our considerations in future.

(I would love to know exactly who within the fishing industry they  have been talking to!)

WRITTEN QUSTIONS

(1) Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which EU fishery regulations will be transferred to domestic legislation through the Great Repeal Bill.

George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are currently analysing all EU fisheries legislation. No decision has yet been made on the extent to which the EU legislation governing the Common Fisheries Policy will be incorporated into domestic law.

The Government remains fully committed to controlling and managing UK waters after we leave the EU in accordance with our rights and obligations under international law.

We are considering the issue of the London Fisheries Convention carefully to ensure we have full control of UK waters after we leave the EU and, as the Prime Minister said on 29th March 2017, we hope to be able to say something about it soon

(2) Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

To ask Her Majesty’s Government under what arrangements vessels of other EU member states fish in UK waters between the six and 12 nautical mile limits; and by what process those arrangements could be terminated.

 Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Under Article 5 (2) of Council Regulation 1380/2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, and the 1964 London Fisheries Convention, vessels from Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, Denmark and the Republic of Ireland have access to fish in the UK’s six to twelve nautical mile zone.

In order to withdraw from the London Convention signatories must give two years notice

(3) Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

To ask Her Majesty’s Government under what arrangements vessels of other EU member states fish in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone between the 12 and 200 nautical mile limits; and by what process those arrangements could be terminated.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy regime vessels from EU Member States have access to fisheries in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between the 12 and 200 nautical mile limit. When it leaves the EU, the UK will control access to fisheries in its EEZ and will manage its waters in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Fisheries and the complexities of international treaty law

On 29th March, Mrs May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Article 50 is very clear:- after two years, the treaties (and regulations} cease to apply – at least as far as the departing member state is concerned. The treaties will still apply to the remaining 27 members but not to the UK. However, the “withdrawal agreement” specified under Article 30 section 4b will be applicable to all.

As far as Article 50 is concerned, there are no grounds for any legal challenge, because the UK was only following the treaty obligation by invoking article 50, to which every other member has agreed twice – once when the Lisbon Treaty came into force and once when Croatia joined the EU.

The problem arises because of the need for a “withdrawal agreement” and the Westminster Parliament’s plan to take the EU acquis across into domestic legislation. If no exceptions are made, as far as fisheries are concerned we would have left the CFP through article 50 only for our Parliament to all intents and purposes to subjugate us into what is in effect the CFP in all but name, especially by bringing regulation 1380/2013, (which contains the percentage share-out – otherwise known as Relative Stability – and historic rights) across into domestic legislation as part of the “agreement”.

When the negotiations are finished and the “agreement” done, it will have to be presented in some legal form or other – a treaty or something similar, as the EU is under a treaty obligation to secure a “withdrawal agreement”.

By coming out of the EU legally through Article 50 and then basically going back to what we have just left through the “agreement”, then according to the Vienna Convention on Treaties we could have problems at a later date. as the UK has on its own accord secured the other 27 EU Members’ continuity rights to fish in its waters. These would be very difficult to remove at a later date, even though invoking Article 50 will make the EU treaties and regulations cease to apply to the UK.

It is possible HMG is unaware of this dang­erous situation, but we can be certain French EU negotiator Michel Barnier will know, therefore it is imperative regulation 1380/2013 is not repatriated into domestic legislation, but will cease to apply on Brexit, as per the treaty obligations within Article 50.

Given we will hopefully see the removal of historic right in the 6 to 12 nautical mile zone by terminating the London 1964 Fisheries Convention, it would be tragic if our Westminster Parliament reinstates the present rights enjoyed by EU fishermen to take 59% of our UK resource and thus accelerate the demise  of our coastal communities.

In connection with the “withdrawal agreement” the following Articles of the Vienna Convention apply:-

Article 30. APPLICATION OF SUCCESSIVE TREATIES RELATING TO THE SAME SUBJECT-MATTER

  1. Subject to Article 103 of the Charter of the United Nations, the rights and obligations of States parties to successive treaties relating to the same subject-matter shall be determined in accordance with the following paragraphs.
  2. When a treaty specifies that it is subject to, or that it is not to be considered as incompatible with, an earlier or later treaty, the provisions of that other treaty prevail.
  3. When all the parties to the earlier treaty are parties also to the later treaty but the earlier treaty is not terminated or suspended in operation under article 59, the earlier treaty applies only to the extent that its provisions are compatible with those of the later treaty.
  4. When the parties to the later treaty do not include all the parties to the earlier one:

(a) As between States parties to both treaties the same rule applies as in paragraph 3;

(b) As between a State party to both treaties and a State party to only one of the treaties, the treaty to which both States are parties governs their mutual rights and obligations.

  1. Paragraph 4 is without prejudice to article 41, or to any question of the termination or suspension of the operation of a treaty under article 60 or to any question of responsibility which may arise for a State from the conclusion or application of a treaty the provisions of which are incompatible with its obligations towards another State under another treaty.

Article 4L AGREEMENTS TO MODIFY MULTILATERAL TREATIES BETWEEN CERTAIN OF THE PARTIES ONLY

  1. Two or more of the parties to a multilateral treaty may conclude an agreement to modify the treaty as between themselves alone if:

(a) The possibility of such a modification is provided for by the treaty; or

(b) The modification in question is not prohibited by the treaty and:

(i) Does not affect the enjoyment by the other parties of their rights under the treaty or the performance of their obligations;

(ii) Does not relate to a provision, derogation from which is incompatible with the effective execution of the object and purpose of the treaty as a whole.

  1. Unless in a case falling under paragraph l(a) the treaty otherwise provides, the parties in question shall notify the other parties of their intention to conclude the agreement and of the modification to the treaty for which it provides.

My reading of these articles suggests that we would be back to square one, making the share out and rights a treaty obligation once again.

Article 14. CONSENT TO BE BOUND BY A TREATY EXPRESSED BY RATIFICATION, ACCEPTANCE OR APPROVAL

  1. The consent of a State to be bound by a treaty is expressed by ratification when:

(«) The treaty provides for such consent to be expressed by means of ratification;

(b) It is otherwise established that the negotiating States were agreed that ratification should be required;

(c) The representative of the State has signed the treaty subject to ratification; or

(d) The intention of the State to sign the treaty subject to ratification appears from the full powers of its representative or was expressed during the negotiation.

  1. The consent of a State to be bound by a treaty is expressed by acceptance or approval under conditions similar to those which apply to ratification.

 

I think Article 14 section 2 is dangerous, because we would be bringing the acquis across and turning it into a treaty. Likewise Article 30 section 4b which would mean that the UK has re-established mutual rights and obligations.

Article 59. TERMINATION OR SUSPENSION OF THE OPERATION OF A TREATY IMPLIED BY CONCLUSION OF A LATER TREATY

  1. A treaty shall be considered as terminated if all the parties to it conclude a later treaty relating to the same subject-matter and:

(a) It appears from the later treaty or is otherwise established that the parties in tended that the matter should be governed by that treaty; or

(b) The provisions of the later treaty are so far incompatible with those of the earlier one that the two treaties are not capable of being applied at the same time.

  1. The earlier treaty shall be considered as only suspended in operation if it appears from the later treaty or is otherwise established that such was the intention of the parties.

Comparing moving the acquis across into domestic legislation with the independence of Ireland and India is of only limited help as both these events predate the Vienna convention.

We are entering uncharted waters in dealing with the EU is untested, as we are not dealing with a sovereign nation but a group of 28 member states, where only one is leaving. It is HMG’s desire to bring the acquis across, the thinking being it will create a smooth transition, which in many cases it will. As far as fisheries is concerned, however, all it will do is re-establish a right for EU vessels to continue to take UK resource on the same excessive scale. .

The only way resource should be allowed to EU vessels over and above equal reciprocal arrangements is through Article 62 of UNCLOS3. Unless HMG is prepared to start with a clean sheet with a policy policy designed for our mixed fishery, fisheries Brexit will never be achieved.

Time to call MEPs’ bluff

 

Last week, an article in the Guardian painted a bleak picture of the prospects for the UK fishing industry after Brexit:- “The hopes of British fishermen that the UK can win its “waters back” after Brexit are expected to be dashed by the European parliament, despite the campaign promises of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, a leaked EU document reveals.

MEPs have drafted seven provisions to be included in Britain’s “exit agreement”, including the stipulation that there will be “no increase to the UK’s share of fishing opportunities for jointly fished stocks [maintaining the existing quota distribution in UK and EU waters]”.

The document, obtained by the Guardian, adds that in order for the UK and EU to keep to commitments on sustainable fishing – contained within the United Nations stocks agreement – “it is difficult to see any alternative to the continued application of the common fisheries policy”

It is time for those MEPs to read Article 50, which they as a Parliament, and each EU member state have twice endorsed. While it is correct that where you have two nations’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) that adjoin one another you will have a straddling stock and the percentage share-out is agreed on the basis of the total allowable catch within each EEZ, it is totally wrong is to suggest to any degree that the share allocated to the British EEZ has to be shared out between the EU and the UK as at present.

Section 3 of Article 50 states “The treaties shall cease to apply to the state in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement, or failing that, two years after the notification Or failing that, if there is no agreement,  the treaties – including regulations – shall cease to apply two years after notice has been given.”

Going back to section 2 of Article 50, it says  “the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with the state”. It does not say that the leaving Nation has to negotiate.

Of course the MEPs are going to try it on. They don’t want to lose out taking a British resource for free, as they have been doing for over 40 years. Taking the phrase “the Union shall negotiate”, they want things to remain as they are  – in other words, as far as the UK is concerned, a shadow CFP. However, the main straddling stocks are located in the North Sea and English Channel, where our EEZ in that area is larger than the EU one. This implies that the EU should follow our policy, not that we should follow theirs – i. e, maintain the CFP.

The MEPs stress that we must abide by International law – the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS3).  Actually, we would agree with this as sections 55 to 75 clearly lay out the guidelines for operating an EEZ. At one second past the two-year period stipulated under Article 50, competency and control reverts to Westminster. We return to the Fishery Limits 1976 Act and its amendments, which accepts the guidelines of UNCLOS3. This states that the marine resources within the British EEZ belongs to the British people. The EU and its MEPs in particular have no say in the management of our own EEZ post-Brexit.

To repeat, international law bestows the responsibility of the British EEZ of 200 nautical mile/median line zone solely onto the UK Government.

In order to prevent an overnight collapse of EU fleets by excluding them totally from day one from our waters, under UNCLOS3 Section 62,  we can make a generous offer in the negotiations. We could allow EU vessels a limited right to fish in UK waters on a decreasing transitional basis – to fish the overcapacity of our resource until we build up our own fleet.

So whatever the Guardian‘s source may say, while the MEPs can huff and puff as much as they wish, there is nothing they can do about it. The only way they can achieve their desire would be if a weak UK government capitulates and creates a British fishing policy based on the CFP for the British EEZ. In other words, giving the EU what they want and repeating Edward Heath’s betrayal of our fishermen. They must not cave in to pressure and deny our coastal communities this lifeline after over four decades of EU-instigated decline

The London Convention and the future for UK fisheries

Time is not on our side. The acid test of whether ”Brexit means Brexit” is Fisheries. While there is no doubt that competency will return from Brussels back to Westminster when we leave, there is a real danger that the Government will run a parallel CFP in everything but name, continuing to give away 59% of the British living marine resource – in other words, the EU continuing to take 674,601 tons of fish out of our waters, at raw prices of £711,224,000.
 
The other important issue which needs to be considered is the 1964 London Convention. On Brexit day, when the EU regulations cease to apply, the London Convention will regain its force unless we act quickly. It is important to note that this is British legislation and nothing to do with the EU, apart from it being a sop to the French – a forlorn hope that it would change General De Gaulle’s mind in allowing Britain to join the then EEC. It granted five EU member substantial fishing rights within our 6 to 12 nautical mile zone, although France was by far the main beneficiary.
 
Under the terms of the Convention, after 1986, we can denounce the agreement by giving two years notice, so we need to do so at the same time as invoking article 50, as that is highly likely to be also a two year period. It would be ridiculous to find ourselves stuck with other Nations’ fishing vessels still able to fish in this narrow, but crucial inshore sector, even if only for a short period.
The Government is fully aware of this situation, but if they do nothing and allow these rights to continue, the five nations could possibly build up continuity rights, making it difficult to remove at a later date. This is as important as avoiding a shadow CFP to cover the 12 to 200 nautical mile zone. If the government fails on both these counts – an there are concerns that it might do without pressure being applied – we will face a repeat of the disaster of 1973, with the British people’s resource sacrificed a second time , increasing the decline within our coastal communities.
 
Not only that but once we appreciate that the boundary of the UK is the outer edge of our 200 nautical mile fishing zone. or median line and not, as is widely believed, the land boundary, we would effectively be losing three quarters of the UK. Given the government’s determination to control immigration – i.e., who sets foot on our land – it would be totally illogical to deny ourselves the right to control which fishing vessels may access our waters.
 
What is more, a failure to denounce the London Agreement or to replace the CFP with something totally different would open a legal minefield. The original London Agreement was vessel-specific and it is highly unlikely that any fishing boat covered by it is still in commercial use fifty years later, but any attempt to dismiss it as irrelevant for this reason would unquestionably be challenged in court. The fisheries regulation 1380/2013 is full of references to “union waters” and other terminology which assumes an EU of 28 countries including the UK, which will not be the case on Brexit day. So many changes would be needed to “repatriate” this regulation that it makes no sense to do so. We have time during the Article 50 period to devise something much simpler and better, based on the Faroese system and allowing only limited access to our waters for vessels of other EU member states using UNCLOS 3 as our guidelines here.     
 
There is no escaping the issue. On Brexit day, the UK – on other words, every single individual Westminster MP, is responsible under Intentional Law, for our managing our waters right up to the 200 nautical mile/median line limit. If they decide to give it away again, the responsibility for doing so, lies totally on their shoulders.
 
There is still everything to play for, but the subject of fishing will set the tone of Brexit. After Article 50 – and hopefully at the same time, the denouncing of  the London Convention – the next stage will be the scrutiny of the Great Repeal Bill in May to see what alterations they have done to the acquis coming into domestic legislation. Hopefully fisheries will be exempt, but to date the situation is not looking good.

Fisheries Part 10 – the policy priorities for an independent UK

A resource such as the marine life – fish, shellfish, and mammals in the 200 nautical mile/median line zone – belongs to the UK, not to Westminster parliamentarians. They are, however, responsible for how it is administered. Furthermore, fishermen are not the owners either, but custodians and what is more, this national resource belongs to everyone, people who live inland as much as those who live on the coast.

Parliament has not been a good administrator of this resource. Firstly, since 1973, it has been progressively given away and secondly, it placed a monetary value on what we were given back. Neither of these things should have happened.

Brexit provides an opportunity for our present Westminster Parliament to make amends for their predecessors’ failings and look after our nation’s resource properly. Incidentally, this means among other things that MPs must not devolve the 12 to 200 nautical mile zone out to the Scottish Parliament, as their First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon wants to give it away again, thus repeating the same mistakes as the last 44 years.

What should be the guiding principles for shaping a fisheries policy for an independent UK? In order of importance, I think they should be:-

Social: A nation’s resource should be a benefit for ordinary people. Currently, the marine environment only benefits a few select individuals. Fish prices are too high, but without a radical re-think on fisheries policy, no guarantee can be given that market forces will bring prices down. On the other hand, ending the quota system and ensuring that different types of fishing can take place could facilitate the return of small family fishing businesses, which would not only rejuvenate coastal communities but could help bring prices down.

Environmental: An environment that is well-managed is essential for a long-term rejuvenation of the fishing industry. This, of course, goes hand-in-hand with the social concerns mentioned above. Conservation issues need not be at odds with the need of small businesses to earn a living. Sometimes areas do need to be closed for fishing for a short term, for instance when juvenile fish are abundant. Also, consideration needs to be given to fish-eating animals such as seals who are perfectly entitled to compete with fishermen for fish stocks, but whose numbers need to be monitored.

Economic: The above two principles, if adhered to, will being economic benefits which will not be concentrated in the hands of a few powerful people. By contrast, putting the principle of maximum financial gain first – especially if accompanied by a free-for-all mentality – would be very short-termist as it would encourage overfishing and thus not be sustainable.

On 17th. November 2016 The New Economics Foundation launched its Blue New Deal, a 20-point action plan to revitalise the UK coast, under the heading 160,000 new jobs for Britain’s coasts. Of the 20 points, only 3 points (15 to 17) related to Fisheries and 3 more (18 to 20) to Aquaculture.

This think tank, which claims to develop alternative economic policies with a strong social and environmental flavour, sadly missed the mark in a number of areas.  True, some of these 20 points were correct, such as Point 16, which said, “Smaller boats are the lifeblood of thriving ports – those that are fishing sustainably need to get a larger share of fishing opportunities” but other points betrayed a complete lack of understanding of the potential for a rejuvenation of fisheries in the UK.  For example,

Points 1 to 3 covered “Put local people in control”, but what is the point of this until there is something for them to control?

Points 4 to 6 covered “Plans for coastal change” but how can anything change for our coastal communities unless you also argue for repealing all fisheries legislation relating to the CFP?

Points 7 to 11 covered “Invest(ing) in a coastal transformation”, but in this part of the work, there was no mention of fisheries, which ought to be the leading topic as far as coastal transformation is concerned.

Mind you, think tanks are not alone in their muddled approach to fisheries.  Some briefing papers, issued from the House of Commons on 27th. July 2016 are no better.

The author/s wrote “The implication of Brexit for fisheries are highly uncertain“. Not at all. If the exit procedure as outlined by the Prime Minister on 2nd. October 2016 is followed, there is no uncertainty, it is very clear. They then went on to say that “The implications will depend on future negotiations with the EU and future UK Government policy.” While it is true that the responsibility for negotiation lies with our MPs, the Brexit default of no agreement would give us complete control of our Exclusive Economic Zone. We are in a strong position, so it is up to the EU to negotiate with us.

The report then goes on to list the “Possible implications, based on the views of different stakeholders and evidence from existing non-EU European countries” which may include:

  • The UK obtaining exclusive national fishing rights up to 200 miles from the coast. However, the UK may trade-off some of these rights in order to obtain access to the EU’s sea area or access to the EU market for fisheries products;”

This shows muddled thinking. We don’t need to “obtain” anything. There are no “ifs or buts” about whether the UK has exclusive fishing within its own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). On Brexit, it will have. End of story.

  • Impacts on the UK’s ability to negotiate favourable fish quotas for UK fishers with the EU. It is not possible to say whether the UK will be more or less able to obtain satisfactory quotas for fishers;

This is totally the wrong way round. The EU has no rights in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone. To fish in our waters,  the EU has to negotiate with us.

  • The need for a new mechanism to enable the UK to negotiate and agree annual fishing quotas with the EU and other countries;

This is already covered by the third United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Seas (UNCLOS III) .

  • The introduction of a UK fisheries management and enforcement system. This in many respects may mirror the existing arrangements for managing fisheries, albeit with additional resources required;

To mirror the existing arrangements – in other words, a shadow CFP – would be a disaster and unacceptable situation.

  • Restrictions on EU market access for fishery products (depending on the outcome of negotiations) and less influence in discussions on determining EU market rules for fish;

This is a negative attitude. It appears that the author believes that the UK owes the EU some share of our resource.

  • Less certainty around public funding of support for fishing communities or environmental sustainability.

Funding is much less important as an issue than having genuine control

  • Issues related to possible changes to the protection of the marine environment

Considering the appalling performance of the CFP, such a remark is an insult.

In conclusion, these briefing papers miss the one crucial point: – Brexit means the competency over our EEZ comes back to Westminster. The EU has no input into how we manage our EEZ, nor any rights. Our Civil Service needs to understand that Brexit means we are no longer beholden to the EU. As far as fisheries is cocenred, we are now in charge – a situation which the younger generation has not experienced.

Having explained why some current thinking about fisheries is mistaken, this then poses the question as to what should be included in a future fisheries policy to maximise the tremendous potential out there.

Firstly, as we mentioned above, it would bring huge social benefits. A successful fishing industry will include a mixture of small, medium and large vessels. The revival of the small family-run fishing businesses would be without doubt the quickest way to rejuvenate the coastal communities. These would operate in the inshore sector – in other words, within 12 nautical miles of the shoreline.

A thriving port/harbour where small fishing boats come and go on a daily basis, creates an interesting spectacle for tourists. Furthermore, the mixed catch will often find a ready market in local hotels and restaurants.  Although some towns like Hastings in Sussex still retain a fleet of small fishing boats, many other towns which were once home to a small fleet of, say, 10 or 20 fishing boats now have none. Worse still, some coastal communities such as Peterhead whose economy was once dominated by fishing, have become desolate as the principal form of employment has been destroyed. Brexit brings with it the prospect of rejuvenation of such towns and the creation of new jobs. Whole areas will start to improve.

Besides commercial fishing, Brexit also brings better prospects for recreational fishing. Once money begins to flow into a given area, economic recovery will gather pace as it spreads out into other sectors.

Only someone who has fished in the waters around the UK can appreciate the enormous potential out there. Our coastal communities could have a very exciting future, but first, authoritative voices who really understand the sector must rise to the difficult task of convincing those who are in a position to bring about this success story that it really is possible.