Fishing:- Template letter to MPs

A number of our members and supporters have been in touch after signing the petition to stop the Common Fisheries Policy being adopted into UK law post-Brexit.

They have received a reply from the government e-petitions site which includes the following:-

A group of MPs called the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee are investigating how possible changes to the fisheries and seafood trading arrangements between the UK and the EU will affect fishers, seafood processors, consumers, coastal communities and the environment.

To help them with their investigation, they’d like to hear from you.

The Committee are particularly interested in these questions:

1. What are the most important things that the Government need to look at when thinking about UK fisheries?

2. What are the challenges and opportunities that UK fisheries will face after the UK leaves the European Union, Common Fisheries Policy and London Fisheries Convention?

3. What stock management objectives should the Government establish in order to achieve the right balance between the interests of seafood consumers, fishers, seafood processors and the environment?

4. What trade policy objectives should the Government establish in order to achieve the right balance between the interests of consumers, fishers, seafood processors, and the environment?

5. How effective are the Government’s arrangements for representing the interests of the UK’s constituent nations within the UK’s negotiations for fisheries?

Please see this attachment which we believe provides a suitable template for your reply. In our opinion, these five questions raised above do not get to the core of one important issue – that UK authorities alone must determine who fish in our waters. This letter does make that point and strongly endorses the “Faeroe-Islands-Plus-Plus” model advocated by Fishing for Leave.

We would strongly recommend not sending it verbatim as politicians are more likely to ignore large numbers of identically-worded e-mails or letters, but on the other hand, we also suggest that you largely stick to the subjects covered in the template, as much of the content originates with Fishing for Leave, which includes the most experienced fisheries campaigners in the country.

 

As a post script, if you would prefer to stick more closely to the five questions, John Ashworth of Fishing for Leave has provided the following suggestions:-

1) What are the most important things that the Government need to look at when thinking about UK fisheries?

  • That the UK becomes a world leader in fisheries management
  • Do not copy the Common Fisheries Policy
  • Re-establish our coastal communities
  • Address the issue of discarding of dead fish
  • The Nation’s resource must not end up in the hands of a few

2) What are the challenges and opportunities that UK fisheries will face after the UK leaves the European Union, Common Fisheries Policy and London Fisheries Convention?

  • Establish the UK as a maritime nation again
  • Create a multi billion pound industry, plus ancillary, including recreation and tourism
  • Get rid of the quota system
  • Abide by international law
  • Work with nature, not against
  • Create a policy that unites fishermen, fishery officers, and scientists

3) What stock management objectives should the Government establish in order to achieve the right balance between the interests of seafood consumers, fishers, seafood processors and the environment?

  • Use sea-time limit, not quota allocation, as that causes dumping
  • Maintain a balance between small, medium and large vessels
  • All marine resource caught in the UK’s EEZ must be landed in UK, unless individual permission is given by the UK government

4) What trade policy objectives should the Government establish in order to achieve the right balance between the interests of consumers, fishers, seafood processors, and the environment?

  • Trade deals should not be linked to access to UK fishing waters. Keep trade/access seperate
  • What marine resource the EU buys from UK cannot be readily obtained from elsewhere.
  • Must abide by internatonal law
  • You have to catch marine resource before you can process or sell it

5) How effective are the Government’s arrangements for representing the interests of the UK’s constituent nations within the UK’s negotiations for fisheries?

  • We don’t know as to date we have heard very little. I suspect the department would prefer the UK territorial waters out to 12 nautical.miles to continue to be devolved but the EEZ of 12 to 200n. Mile/median line as one unit.
  • Four separate EEZs would be a nightmare as international reciprocal arrangements have to be agreed.

 

Last night’s vote:- a step towards freedom

We will leave it to others to provide a blow-by-blow account of the progress of the second reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) bill through Parliament. Yesterday saw the start of eight days’ scrutiny of the Bill by the House of Commons. The vote to repeal  the 1972 European Communities Act was comfortably passed by 318 votes to 68. Calls for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to have a veto over the process were rejected by 318 votes to 52.

Mrs May’s plan to enshrine in law 29th March 2019 as the date on which we leave the EU was debated but was not voted on. This could prove a bit more of a challenge when the vote takes place next week, particularly with some 15 Tories indicating they were likely to vote against this amendment.  The Daily Telegraph created something of a storm by referring to these 15 as “mutineers.”

Tory MPs on both side of the Brexit divide have sought to distance themselves from the Telegraph‘s rather strong language while some of the group of 15 have accused the Telegraph of bullying.

As always, when feelings run high, it is vital to differentiate between genuinely obstructive remoaners and MPs who are not seeking to block Brexit but are uncomfortable with the way the Government is going about it. We would not wish to make any comment beyond repeating that whatever side Tory MPs took in the referendum campaign, the number of hard-core remainiacs is actually quite small. Most Tories know that delivering a successful Brexit will determine their future and they must sink or swim together.

Meanwhile, each successful vote takes us one small tiny nearer to freedom. In the present chaotic climate, we must be thankful for these small mercies.

MPs’ vote on Brexit deal – is it a climbdown?

Yesterday, David Davis announced that MPs would get a binding vote on the final Brexit deal agreed with the EU. Although Labour called this decision a “climbdown”, in reality, it does not concede very much and does not put Brexit in doubt.

Essentially, MPs will be asked to take it or leave it. The choices will either be to accept the deal or to crash out of the EU without a deal.

Unsurprisingly, the Tory incorrigibles, led by Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry were none too happy with Davis’ concession, calling it unacceptable.

It may well be, however, that the wrangling turns out to be academic. There has to be an agreement upon which to vote and there is no sign of the two sides moving any closer. One informed commentator, indeed, has suggested that within a few weeks, the  chances of a deal will drop to zero.

There is no question that the “transitional deal” about which there has been much talk faces huge obstacles. Such outlines as have been provided would be unacceptable to many Tory Brexiteers and would still need a huge amount of negotiation with the EU within a short timescale to be signed off by Brexit day.

Is there a via media between this pipe dream (or better, pipe nightmare) and the worrying prospect of having to fall back on the so-called WTO option?  The EEA/EFTA route has been ruled out, a “deep and comprehensive” trade deal on the lines of the EU/Ukraine agreement would take too long and any bespoke deal would take too long to conclude.

And this remains the biggest concerns for those of us desiring to see a successful Brexit. There is no doubt that the remainiacs are still causing trouble, but outside the political bubble, very few people are taking any notice of them. The real worry is that the talks may fail and we will drift aimlessly towards March 29th 2019 with the resulting chaos leaving us battling calls to re-join the EU forthwith.

Half way there, but have we even started?

Last week marked the half way point between 23rd June 2016 – that euphoric day when we voted to leave the EU – and the actual day on which we will actually leave:- March 29th 2019.

On Friday, Mrs May confirmed that she plans to set the date for our departure from the EU into law. There will be no slippage and no turning back. This comes against a background of growing concern that Brexit could be stopped.  Today, Lord Kerr, a former UK ambassador to the EU, insisted that the Article 50 process could be stopped or reversed. No way, replied Mrs May. Her proposed law will make it irreversible.

This is good news for those of us who fought so hard to secure that historic victory in June last year. I have dealt with more than my fair share of correspondence recently from people concerned that the government is going to back track. My views have not changed since writing this article that Mrs May and the Tories, whatever side they supported during the referendum campaign, have no choice but to deliver Brexit because failure to do so would provoke the worst crisis in the party since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.  Backtracking would be suicidal. Thankfully, a lust for power is deeply entrenched into the Conservatives’ psyche and given their shock at last June’s General Election result, they know that delivering a good Brexit is essential if they are to avoid  electoral meltdown in 2022.

Probe a bit deeper, however, and the picture is not quite so rosy.  In spite of the Brexit vote last year, as  Veterans for Britain has been keen to point out, the Government has taken us deeper into the EU’s military integration process, with there being considerable support to signing us up to PESCO, the Permanent Structured Cooperation of the EU’s external action force – set up in reality to undermine and replace NATO. Brexit can only mean Brexit if we are completely detached militarily and we can but hope that even at this 11th hour, Gavin Williamson, the new defence secretary who has little experience of military matters, will listen to those members of our armed forces who know what they are talking about and step back from this process.

Sadly, of our daily newspapers, only the Express  has so far been willing to cover this disturbing development. However, to repeat, even if Williamson’s predecessor Michael Fallon was able to get away with betraying the UK’s armed forces without being subject to too much scrutiny, it will be out of the bag by 2022 and the Tories will reap the whirlwind electorally.

Equally disturbing is this statement from the Prime Minister’s office which was passed to one of our supporters. Note the section he has highlighted in yellow:-  It also means that the existing body of EU law will become British law. So this provides certainty and clarity for all businesses and families across the country from the very moment we leave the EU.”

This is true when it comes to legislation which would only be applied internally. For instance,  the rules governing bathing water have been devised by the EU. It is no great problem for us to continue to use them over the Brexit period. They work satisfactorily so even if they could be improved, there is no urgency until we have settled down as a sovereign, independent country.

It is a different matter, however, when it comes to legislation which involves the relationship of an independent UK with the rest of the EU. We have previously highlighted the fallacy of this approach with regards fisheries, but it also applies to the general question of trade. the PM appears to be repeating the mistake that because our regulations will be aligned with those of the EU up to Brexit day, some sort of seamless trade arrangement should not be a problem,

The transitional arrangement which she seeks is essentially based on this misunderstanding – we can be essentially honorary EU members for two years while a bespoke long-term deal is sorted out. We would obey all the rules and pay into the EU’s coffers without any representation. Such a deal would be unacceptable to many Tory backbenchers, not to mention the wider Brexit-supporting community. Thankfully, although the penny seems not to have dropped in Westminster, the EU has said it is a non-runner.

The European Parliament  set out its position, where, among other things,  it “reaffirms that membership of the internal market and the customs union entails acceptance of the four freedoms, the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, general budgetary contributions and adherence to the European Union’s common commercial policy”  – in other words, you’re either in or you’re out. To repeat, it’s not about regulatory convergence but the legal relationship of a future EU-UK relationship. We will no longer be subject to the EU’s treaties, Article 50 is quite clear about this. We need to seek a new legal basis and any transitional agreement would require almost as complicated a legal ratification process than a long-term bespoke relationship.

The EU’s guidelines also say, “To the extent necessary and legally possible, the negotiations may also seek to determine transitional arrangements which are in the interest of the union and, as appropriate, to provide for bridges towards the foreseeable framework for the future relationship in the light of progress made. Any such transitional arrangements must be clearly defined, limited in time and subject to effective enforcement mechanisms. Should a time-limited prolongation of Union Acquis be considered, this would require existing Union regulatory supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures to apply.”

This affirm that the EU will allow us to go ahead with a transitional deal, but it must be on the EU’s terms and subject to the appropriate legal processes being completed in time, which looks very doubtful. In other words, to repeat, it’s a non-starter and a red herring.

So until there is a change in mindset among UK’s negotiators we will continue to go round in circles. Last Friday also saw the usual Barnier/Davis press conference following the latest round of “negotiations” and there is still no indication from the EU side that they feel ready to start trade talks as insufficient progress has been made on the three critical issues of the Irish border, the rights of EU citizens resident in the EU and the “divorce bill.” Agreement must be reached within two weeks or trade talks will not be starting any time soon. Sadly, David Davis’s response was to call for the EU to show “flexibility  and imagination.” Unfortunately, the EU’s legal structure doesn’t allow it to be flexible. Mr Davis can repeat this little phrase as much as he likes. It will not make a shred of difference.

So at this point when we have just reached the half way point to Brexit, it is sobering to think that this milestone has been reached with the two sides so far apart and so little real progress made. Not what any of us expected on that incredible morning when the result of the referendum was announced. A Brexit of sorts will almost certainly happen on 29th March 2019, but unless the government raises its game, we could find ourselves, more by default rather than design, either crashing out following a breakdown of the talks or suffering a Brexit that isn’t really Brexit in any meaningful way.

Hard & soft remainers, education and Brexit

There is no doubt that the vote to leave the EU delivered a very serious kick up the backside to an arrogant establishment so convinced of its monopoly on truth and righteousness that it did not remotely expect that the referendum might show that a majority of the population held a different opinion.

The degree to which even now, “hard” remainers are refusing to come to terms with the result is quite staggering. A recent low was a piece by the Remainiac John Lubbock. Writing in the Independent, he had the audacity to claim that because the EU was founded with the intent of preventing a World War 3, “if you voted to leave the EU, don’t bother to wear a poppy.”  The implication is quite clear. Leavers claim to honour the victims of war but are opposed to the very organisations which were set up to prevent war.

The Independent seems to have established an annual tradition of bashing Brexiteers around the time of Remembrance Day. Last year’s variation on the same theme by Robert Fisk was even worse. “The Entente Cordiale which sent my father to France is now trash beneath the high heels of Theresa May – yet this wretched woman dares to wear a poppy“, he wrote.

Barry Shearman, a Labour MP who has proved a bit of a troublesome individual over some recent Brexit votes, has brought out another odious side to the remainiacs. He recently claimed that “‘The truth is that when you look at who voted to remain, most of them were the better educated people in our country.” There is a very simple reply to this:- such a predominance of remain votes among university students is a damning indictment of our education system. Those who leave school at 18 are spared three years’ additional propaganda on top of the brainwashing they had already received at school and are thus more capable of independent thought.  The Russell Group of Universities, once regarded as the leading further education institutions in the UK, is now among the worst when it comes to restricting freedom of speech, being plagued by no-platforming, safe space policies and many of the other forms of madness which are producing a generation of young people unfit to run a whelk stall, let alone the country.  Thank goodness they won’t have to face the task of leaving the EU.  They would be totally out of their depth. The current government, all educated before this nonsense ruined so many good universities, is making heavy enough weather of Brexit.

And there is no doubt that they will continue to face challenges, as this piece on the likely challenges to the EU (withdrawal) Bill warns us.  However, I would like to make one point which needs to be made in the light of the many concerns I receive that a government led by erstwhile remainers will never deliver Brexit:- some of them have had second thoughts. These include Liz Truss, who said that the turning point for her was when the Treasury’s ‘dire’ predictions of life after the vote failed to materialise. William Hague, hasn’t had quite such a volte-face but said that if a second referendum was held, he would be more likely to vote leave because “you can’t keep changing your mind.”

In reality, while the majority of Tory MPs backed remain, the number of hard-core Remainiacs is actually quite small. There has been much debate about the degree to which Theresa May supported staying in the EU in last year’s campaign, but it is quite clear that the answer was “Not enough for David Cameron” as her contribution to the remain cause was very limited and only took place after quite considerable pressure, earning her the nickname “Submarine May”. After John Major’s bruising battle with the Maastricht rebels in 1992, the party desperately tried to avoid “banging on about Europe” with the resultant internal wrangling which inevitably would ensue. This meant that, especially since David Cameron became party leader in 2005, attempts were made to push the EU issue as much into the background as possible and outright withdrawalism was discouraged.

In the end, Cameron was unable to maintain this uneasy status quo. He conceded the referendum and the rest is history. His successor and her ministers are having to live with his legacy.  It now matters little which side members of her government took in the referendum. The very survival of the Conservative party depends on delivering a successful Brexit. They must sink or swim together.

The older Milipede – partly right but partly very wrong indeed

Before the referendum, at least one well-known pro-remain politician talked of leaving the country if we voted to leave. Unfortunately, not only has there been no indication that Red Ken has kept to his word and cleared off to somewhere like North Korea, where he would probably feel far more at home, but also some equally odious politicians whom we thought we had already got rid of have re-emerged from obscurity to give us their pennyworth on the subject of our future relationship with the EU.

David Miliband (remember him?) has recently chipped in to the Brexit debate, saying that we should have a second referendum which would include the option of staying in the EU. He was critical of Theresa May for her decision to start the two-year countdown to Brexit by triggering Article 50 without knowing the outcome.

Irksome as it is to find oneself in agreement with this arch-Blairite and remoaner, unfortunately, he is correct – at least on this point. The government does not seem to know what it wants. Yes, in the long term, it wants a deal with the EU which will give us considerable access to the single market without being subject to the “four freedoms”  – in other words, a bespoke trade deal like CETA. But utterances from HM Government have been very heavy on  the “deep and special” relationship but very light on detail. Furthermore, how are we to get there? We are hearing talk of a transitional deal or “deferred withdrawal”, as David Davis calls it, but while it is no pleasure either to be agreeing with someone like the former Chancellor Alastair Darling, he is right in saying, “you can only transition to a destination.”

Such outlines as have been released about the proposed transitional deal are distinctly unsatisfactory. The “deferred withdrawal” would see the UK spending a further two years after March 2019 as an honorary member of the EU with no voting powers. We would continue to apply all the EU acquis and to pay into the EU budget, but would be totally passive, with no input into the EU’s processes. This would be not only a betrayal of Brexit but “a legal minefield” according to Chris Bryant, an EU expert at lawyers Brewin Leighton Paisner. Even this arrangement simply cannot be agreed, signed and ratified in time for Brexit Day.

Mr Bryant then went on to say that the government doesn’t seem to have got to grips with the need to pin down even a transitional deal legally. “Vague talk is not going to cut the mustard.” This is the problem. The government is convinced that the EU will agree to some sort of transitional deal, but when David Davis was asked about what legal authority the EU had for this, he was very evasive – and with good reason.

This exchange with the SNP MP Joanna Cherry in the Sel;ect Committee on Exiting the European Union on 25th October is particularly enlightening:-

Q67            Joanna Cherry: Can I go back to the transitional period or the implementation period?  What is your understanding of the legal basis for a transitional deal or an implementation period?

Mr Davis: The presumption we have been working on is that it comes under the Article 50 proposal.  It was raised with us by the Commission.  The European Parliament sees it in those terms.  I am assuming the Commission legal service does.  But in many ways it is a question almost for the Commission rather than me.

Q68            Joanna Cherry: Do you have any legal advice of your own as to the basis of a transitional deal or implementation period?

Mr Davis: I am not going to share the legal advice for the reason I gave earlier: that is the convention.  But our belief is that it fits under Article 50.

Q69            Joanna Cherry: Legal advice exists, and it is your belief that it is under Article 50.

Mr Davis: I am not going to be drawn any further on that.  I said I believe it is going to be under Article 50.

Q70            Joanna Cherry: Article 50 does not actually say anything about transitional deals or implementation periods.

Mr Davis: Article 50 does not say very much about anything, if you read it.  It is the blandest and unhelpful phrase you are ever likely to come across, but there we are: that is that.

Q71            Joanna Cherry: What it does make clear is that, during any period of deferred withdrawal, the treaties would continue to apply, so if we went into a period of deferred withdrawal under Article 50 we would still be in the single market; we would still be in the customs union; and we would still be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.  That is correct, isn’t it?

Mr Davis: My response to that is the same as my response to Mr Bone: we are not looking for deferred withdrawal; we are looking for an implementation period.

Q72            Joanna Cherry: But if it is the case that, as a matter of law, all you could have under Article 50 was a deferred withdrawal, we would not be leaving on 29 March 2019, would we?

Mr Davis: That is not what we have been negotiating for.  The phrase “deferred withdrawal” has never been used to me by the Commission.  The phrase they use is “transition period”.  Our term of art is “implementation period”.

Even the most unsatisfactory idea of being a passive honorary EU member requires the EU to agree and such an agreement would require it to go through almost as complex a legal process as a long-term deal.  There is no indication that Mr Davis has appreciated this important point. His answers suggest that he cannot explain the legal basis under which the “transitional deal”,” implementation period”, call it what you will, can be agreed. Once we leave the EU on 29th March 2019, the treaties no longer apply to the UK, including the Lisbon Treaty, with its Article 50, so it will have to be something else. But what?

Furthermore, what guarantee is being offered that the transitional arrangement, if agreed, really will only last for two years?  David Davis was not convincing in his reply here too when questioned by Sammy Wilson MP over this. Ironically, he then went on to say that “no deal” still remains an option.

But  is it really? The “no deal” option  assumes that “with one bound, we will be free.”  In other words, there may be a few little glitches but we would still survive – and indeed prosper  – if we  cut our ties at a stroke in the event of the talks getting bogged down. There are many reasons to be highly sceptical that things will run anything like so smoothly.

In summary, the government seems to believe there are only two positions in which the UK could  find itself in March 2019 and both would be disastrous.The first would see us essentially still in the EU in all but name, the second is cloud cuckoo land.  – or rather, a massive headache for many businesses which could well lead to a very severe recession.

Where the Government is going wrong in its thinking on both the proposed long and short term relationships with the EU is its assumption that if any nation has aligned its own regulation with that of the EU, the EU will happily treat it as an honorary member of the club. This is to miss the whole point of the EU project – it is not a trading bloc but a political construct. The sheer complexity of Brexit has already shown to us just how much independence we have already surrendered thanks to Edward Heath’s manic determination to shackle us to this contruct.

So  Miliband is right in saying that the government should have worked out its exit strategy before triggering Article 50. Even all this time later, less than a week before the mid-point between last year’s referendum and Brexit day, the government still seems caught between a rock and a hard place  when it comes to devising a strategy which would enable us to leave the EU satisfactorily.

His other comments, however, are totally and completely wrong. “”Those of us who are outside the country take absolutely no pleasure in the low ebb to which Britain has sunk. Brits abroad look at the fact other countries see us in retreat, having lost our way” he said. For all the muddle of the negotiations at the moment, this is not a country in retreat nor one which has lost its way. Rather, we are groping our way slowly and indeed very awkwardly towards something better. It may be a long tunnel, but one day, there will be some light at the end. To reiterate a point made above – and indeed, on many other occasions on this website – the Brexit negotiations have laid bare just how many areas of public policy have been surrendered by our government as a result of 43 years’ membership of the EU. It has been like an octopus, wrapping its tentacles around our political institutions and slowly squeezing the life out of them. We want to escape before it finally throttles us. If we have sunk to a low ebb, it’s because of our membership of the EU, not because we voted to leave.

The Brexit vote was a vote to re-join normality – a reflection of our desire to be a successful nation state once again and a vote of confidence in ourselves that we can do it. I doubt if any of us involved in the campaign to free the UK from the EU have had the slightest doubt that it was the right thing to do.  Successful nation states are flourishing in Asia, North and South America and Australasia. Nearer to home, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are happy outside the EU. Indeed, in Switzerland, one minister recently said that in his country only “a few lunatics” want to join the EU.  It will take some time to readjust and there is no denying that the government is in a mess over its Brexit strategy at the moment, but even if Miliband and his like cannot hide their contempt for the UK electorate’s decision to regain its freedom, we did the right thing and we will be vindicated  – eventually.

Photo by Hanna Irßlinger Fotografie