Fishing – a step backwards

A Brexit that will work for nobody

“Brexit means Brexit,” Theresa May famously said on a number of occasions last year, “And I intend it to work for everybody.”  With the half-way point between the referendum vote and Brexit day looming next month, current pronouncements from the Government suggest that on the contrary, we could end up with a Brexit that works for no one.

Our fishermen have good reason to be worried. Unless the Fisheries Regulation 1380/2013 is exempted from the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – and there is no sign that this is the Government’s plan – we will end up leaving the Common Fisheries Policy only to revert to what is in effect a shadow CFP, including all the access arrangements which would continue to give away our nation’s resource to the EU. Last week, when asked about fisheries, the Prime Minister said,

“When we leave the European Union, we will be leaving the common fisheries policy. As part of the agreement that we need to enter into for the implementation period, obviously that and other issues will be part of that agreement.”.

While this “implementation period” may exist only in Mrs May’s imagination, she should instead have given an unequivocal statement that upon Brexit, we will not only immediately take full control of our Exclusive Economic Zone, but will not be running it on a quota basis.

At least as far as fisheries is concerned, there is hope that ultimately it will be Michael Gove who determines post-Brexit policy. He has shown himself sympathetic to the plight of our fishermen and his mention of John Ashworth in person during a fringe meeting at the Tory Party Conference is a recognition that the fishing community is running a well-organised campaign that not going to take no for an answer.

Another area of concern is the reluctance of this government to disentangle ourselves from the EU’s military machine. Our friends in Veterans for Britain  were understandably critical of the Government’s recent  “future partnership” paper on defence, which would limit our independence. They also do not want to see is tied in to PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) a key factor in the EU’s military ambitions to create a defence union. It appears from an earlier briefing put out by VfB that many MPs are still in the dark about the very limited military autonomy with which government ministers plan to allow us. This is unacceptable. As an independent country, our political objectives will inevitably diverge from those of the EU. We will no longer be interested in its empire building in the Balkans or among the former soviet republics. Our defence policy must be disentangled from that of the EU before we leave. If Mrs May is planning a reshuffle, as is widely being rumoured, the appointment of a genuine Brexiteer to  replace the most unsatisfactory Micharl Fallon as Defence Secretary would be a very good move.

We also need to make a clean break with the EU on criminal justice matters.  Torquil Dick-Erikson has raised the issue of the European Arrest Warrant on this website before. We agree with him that it is totally unacceptable for the Government to keep us as a signatory to the EAW and to be a member of Europol. More than that, Torquil has pointed out that the Government has also declared its willingness to allow “special intervention units” from the EU to set foot on British soil, and under a smokescreen of “ensuring security.”

In these three areas – fishing, defence and criminal justice, Brexit must be as “hard” as possible and the Government’s shortcomings will be highlighted over and over again on this website until there is a change of heart. This is not the Brexit we voted for.  As last year’s Vote.Leave slogan said so graphically, it was all about “taking back control”. If our fishing grounds are shared with the EU, our defence is bound up with that of the EU and EU judges still have the power to haul us off to any one of 27 member countries on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, we are not in control at all.

What is more, these issues must not be swept under the carpet while all the media focus being on trade talks – or rather, the lack of trade talks. Thankfully, as far as trade is concerned, a number of senior figures from industry, supported by a small but growing number of MPs are expressing their concern that the “No deal is better than a bad deal” mantra is unrealistic and dangerous. Leaving the EU without a deal would be a calamity for our economy, even though one recent opinion poll suggested that as many as 74% of voters would prefer this to a supposed “bad deal”. Do they realise that planes would be unable to fly? That the M20 in Kent would be turned into a lorry park overnight?

Of course, it is possible that the Government is engaging in brinkmanship to try to twist the EU’s arm and get it to start trade talks before the three contentious issues of the Irish border, the “divorce bill” and the rights of EU citizens have been agreed, but it is a high-risk strategy and one that looks unlikely to succeed. It is based on a long-standing failure to perceive that the EU is first and foremost a political project, not a trading bloc.

This mistaken perception of the EU’s nature suggests that the transitional arrangement mentioned recently by Mrs May (where we would be able to trade seamlessly with the EU after Brexit in return for being subject to most of the EU’s rules and policed by the European Court of Justice) is mercifully a non-starter.  It is an unsatisfactory pick-and-mix deal which violates the EU’s political integrity while being an extremely bad arrangement for the UK. It remains a mystery why the EEA/EFTA option is still being ruled out of court by all senior government figures when something far worse is being publicly advocated instead.

While no sane person would disagree with the statement by David Davis that Brexit is “the most complex peacetime operation in our history”, it is now nearly 14 months since the referendum vote and we do not yet have any indication that the Government has come up with a strategy which will deliver a satisfactory break with the EU.  Thanks to David Cameron’s ban on allowing the Civil Service to work on any Brexit plan before the  referendum, the Government and Whitehall have found themselves on a sharp learning curve, but some campaigners, such as John Ashworth have been active for 20 years or more and have considerable knowledge their specialist subjects. Why are their recommendations not being adopted? Why, after all this time, is the government still seemingly confused about the difference between the Customs Union and customs clearance agreements? Why has the defence integration continued since the Brexit vote without any consultation with the military, who actually understand the issues?

It does not help when anyone who dares to stick their heads above the parapet and suggest that we are heading for a disaster is labelled a “traitor” – as was the case with Philip Hammond last week. Of course, Mr Hammond supported remain during the referendum and some ardent Brexiteers refuse to believe that anyone who did not campaign for Brexit can possibly be genuinely committed to making it happen, in spite of our own soundings which suggested that most MPs, whatever side they took in the referendum campaign, have accepted the result and will not seek to be obstructive over Brexit. More worryingly, a veteran leave supporter like Christopher Booker, whose pro-Brexit credentials are impeccable, has been tarred with the same brush for expressing concern about the direction of Brexit talks. What is the point in saying things are looking good when there is every evidence that they are not?

There are two very big worries which force concerned Brexiteers like Mr Booker – and indeed, your author – to stick to their guns. The first is that a calamitous Brexit would be grist to the mill of the hard-core remainiacs who have never accepted the result of last year’s referendum. A spike in unemployment and inflation coupled with possible food shortages would lead to calls for us to start negotiations to re-join the EU, even though we would lose our opt-outs on the €uro and Schengen along with the Fontainebleau rebate won for us by Mrs Thatcher. This would be a disaster.

Secondly, it would lead to unprecedented political upheaval. Less than a year ago, some Conservatives were convinced not just that Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable but that the Labour Party was in its death throes. Last June’s election was a rude awakening for the Tories, proving their optimism to be very wide of the mark. The mood at the Party conference was apparently very sombre indeed.

There is good reason for this, as today’s young people in particular are far more likely to support Labour than the Tories, suggesting that far from Corbyn being unelectable, he is likely to become Prime Minister in 2022, bringing with him a team of MPs who are in the main, even more reluctant Brexiteers than the Tories. The best way  – indeed, probably the only way – of avoiding this is for the Tories to deliver a successful Brexit. Analysis of voter intentions suggest that the most popular reason why voters opted for the Conservatives last June was a conviction that they would deliver on Brexit. To betray the voters’ trust  would not just hand over the keys of No. 10 Downing Street to Jeremy Corbyn in 2022; it would produce the biggest crisis in the Conservative Party since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.

As  Anthony Scholefield, a CIB Committee member, pointed out in his 2011 critique of Cameronism, “Too ‘nice’ to be Tories – how the modernisers have damaged the Conservative party“,  attempts by the Tory leadership since 2005 to reach out to urban touchy-feely politically correct types have served rather to alienate many traditional supporters. As I argued a few years ago, there are plenty of people who genuinely want to vote for what Mrs May famously called a “nasty” party. I was wrong in predicting that Cameron wouldn’t win the 2015 election, but he only won it because he was forced to give in to the mounting pressure within his party to hold a referendum on our membership of the EU. It was the EU issue which also saved Mrs May’s bacon two years later. Given that a good few Tory voters (and indeed activists) still remain most uncomfortable about this move to the supposed centre ground since Cameron became leader, I believe that nothing else can save the Conservatives from calamity in 2022 except a smooth, well-managed and complete Brexit that will enable our businesses to keep trading while at the same time revitalising our fishing industry and freeing us from the clutches of the EU’s military and the EAW.

To put it another way, the Tories have a long list of EU-related sins for which they need to repent collectively, going back to the deceit of Edward Heath in the 1970s. This is their one and only opportunity to make atonement. They created the mess; it is poetic justice that they are being saddled with the task of getting us out of it. If they succeed, the country can move on after over 40 years in our unhappy relationship with Brussels and the party need never again “bang on about Europe”.  If they fail, our country may well end up marking the centenary of the resignation in 1922 of David Lloyd George, the last ever Liberal Prime Minister,  with the resignation of the last ever Conservative Premier. It really is as serious as that

 

The British fishing industry – the present situation

The British fishing industry faces a worrying future, as it is not clear what will happen post-Brexit. However, even before we leave the EU, next year could see many vessels put out of business, losing the very people we need to rebuild the fleet and infrastructure once we leave the EU.

2018 brings the next stage of the EU’s discard ban into operation, resulting in fishermen having to stop fishing once they have caught the full complement of the species for which they have the least quota – known as the choke species. Some estimate tie-ups could start by the end of February and last for the rest of the calendar year. It doesn’t matter how much quota you have on others species. The rules state that as soon as the species with minimum quota is reached, you and your organization will be forced to lay up.

On top of that, the fisheries plans for Brexit itself are confusing, causing confusion and doubt. The one glimmer of light is that the Secretary of State Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Environment, Agriculture, Fisheries), the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove, whose brief covers three important areas of EU competency, made a flying start after taking this post in June, denouncing the London 1964 Fishery Convention, which will, in due course, keep foreign vessels out of our 6/12 nautical mile zone.

The past week has been encouraging with two oral question to the Prime Minister, and an excellent House of Commons Exit Committee session, (especially the first half), which took place on Wednesday 11th. October. It was good to get clarity from the four witnesses – Sir Stephen Laws, Sir Konrad Schiemann, Dr. Charlotte O’Brien and Professor Richard Ekins.

We in Fishing for Leave have maintained that when Article 50 terminates on 29th. March 2019, and the EU Treaties and Regulations cease to apply to the UK, we are out of the CFP. We then revert back to the 1976 Fishery Limits Act, and International Law – UNCLOS 3. However, from this Committee session came clarity that when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, becomes an Act, it is this Act we revert back to, the Act that has brought all the EU acquis back into domestic legislation, including fisheries regulation 1380/2013, re-establishing the right for EU vessels to continue taking around 60% of our Nation’s marine resource.

The danger of this Bill comes not from taking on board into domestic legislation those EU Regulations which only operate internally within an individual country but rather those which deal with interfaces between different countries, like the CFP reglations. The witnesses to the committee made it clear that while article 50 takes us out cleanly of the EU, on 29 March 2019,  the EU (Withdrawal) Bill takes us back in with our parliament’s blessing if the repatriation of the aquis is tied to a “transitional deal” as proposed by Mrs May. For fisheries that means we would be back in the CFP, all bar name and we would remain under ECJ control for up to two further years.

The witnesses also expressed surprise that the withdrawal bill appeared not to cover the eventuality of no agreement being reached.

Given the deliberations of the Committee, we can now understand the context of two important oral questions put to the Prime Minister and her answers. The first was by Kate Hoey, on 9th.October 2017

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab)

The European Commission talks continually about the need for Her Majesty’s Government to provide certainty and clarity. Is there not one area in which we could provide that certainty and clarity very plainly, today and in our negotiations? Could we not make clear that in March 2019 we will withdraw from the common fisheries policy, take back all our fisheries, and ensure that our fishing communities actually take back control of who fishes in British waters?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady is right to suggest that when we leave the European Union one of the aspects of leaving it will be leaving the common fisheries policy. Of course, we will need to consider the arrangements that we want to put in place here in the United Kingdom for the operation of our coastal waters and the operation of fishing around them.

This does not answer the question regarding when we are going to be leaving the CFP. Will it be on 29th March 2019 as per Article 50? Also, what does Mrs May mean when she talks about our “coastal waters”?All very unsatisfactory.

Further questions were raised on 11th October:-

Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)

Is it the Prime Minister’s intention that the United Kingdom should remain part of the common fisheries policy during any transitional period after we leave the European Union? [900931]

The Prime Minister

When we leave the European Union, we will be leaving the common fisheries policy. As part of the agreement that we need to enter into for the implementation period, obviously that and other issues will be part of that agreement. But when we leave the European Union, we will leave the common fisheries policy.

This is a very confusing answer; which date are we leaving? By raising the subject of an implementation period it sounds as if it is to be later than the official Brexit date – 29th March 2019. Fishing is going to be part of the withdrawal agreement which means a final withdrawal treaty, which in turn brings in problems.

Then on the same day 11 October another oral question was asked by Mrs Sheryll Murray, the MP for South East Cornwall, as follows:-

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that once we leave the EU we will have total control over our internationally recognised fisheries limits, that fishermen from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England will benefit from any new management regime, and that this will not be bargained away during any negotiations?

Damian Green  (First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office)

I am happy to assure my hon. Friend that when we leave the EU we will be fully responsible under international law for controlling UK waters and the sustainable management of our fisheries. Through the negotiations we will of course work to achieve the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry as a whole.

This answer poses the question as to whether our Government understands our obligations under International law. If it did, you wouldn’t be taking about achieving “the best possible deal”. International law is clear; as far as fishing is concerned, it is the EU which has to ask for a deal, not the UK.

It was nine months ago when Fishing for Leave raised the issue of the Great Repeal Bill (now the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill) with the newly-created Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU). We were concerned about the Exit day being moved through domestic legislation. We have said all along it could bring a legal challenge on acquired rights, bogging us down for years, thanks to the Vienna Convention on Treaties. To this day, DExEU is dismissing this out of hand.

To play safe, just as Michael Gove did with the 1964 London Fisheries Convention, it would be a safer bet to exempt all fisheries regulations from the withdrawal bill.

All this may sound confusing and technical, but having spent over 50 years in the fishing Industry, one issue of which I am convinced is that new UK management system will be based on either the Icelandic model or Fishing for Leave’s model – i.e., Quota or effort limitation. If we go down the Icelandic model, our UK coastal communities will not benefit, and I would not like to sell that to the electorate. We are talking about a national resource, where all the people should benefit, not a few.

 

May admits coastal communities will be lost in transition

A press release from Fishing for leave

At PMQs yesterday (Wed 11th Oct.) Theresa May finally let the mask slip when asked a question on whether Britain would still be locked into the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) during a transition.

Before the House of Commons the PM stated that Britain’s fishing industry and coastal communities will once again be bargained as part of the agreement to gain a transition/implementation period.

“As part of the agreement we need to enter into for the implementation period, obviously that (CFP )and other issues will be part of that agreement”.

Fishing for Leaves Alan Hastings raged “It is appalling that the establishment won’t even make a stand on fishing when it is such an “acid test” of whether we’ve taken back control – after being sacrificed to join it looks like Britain’s fishing and coastal communities will be sacrificed on leaving too”.

“It’s sickening that it is not for any benefit but to cravenly gain a transition period that will only leave this country prostrate at the hands of the EU”

Fishing for Leave highlighted that under international law Article 50 confers a clean slate on March 2019 where all EU treaties and law ceases to apply – taking Britain cleanly out the CFP and leaving the country free to make our own laws and deals.

“A transition has been spun as part of a gentle unwinding during leaving – IT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT”

“Legally Britain leaves the EU at the end of the Article 50 process in March 2019. A transition period isn’t part of leaving but part of a future deal with the EU”

“Therefore, a transition is only within the EUs gift to give and on their terms – this puts Britain at the EUs mercy – we will have taken back control in March 2019 only to give it straight back to the EU in a transition deal – its madness”.

This was confirmed by Michael Barnier on the 21st September. That any transition past the Article 50 cut-off date can only happen if the UK effectively re-joins the EU to get it.

”I would like to be very clear: if we are to extend for a limited period the Acquis of the EU, with all its benefits, then logically this would require existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures to apply

Alan Hastings fumed “Barnier has made it crystal clear – the only way the EU will give a transition is if it is entirely on their terms. Where Britain continues to obey all current and future EU law but has no say or input over them – it’s a worse position than being members – perhaps that’s the point!”

“Consequently, they can demand continuation of the CFP – most worryingly they can alter the rules to cripple and finish what is left of the British fleet so they clear the sea of the British industry”

“What Mrs May and her remain sycophants are doing just now in their desperation to Remain with the EU is prostrating Britain in regulatory purgatory as they hope to keep kicking the can down the road – lost in transition comes to mind”

“They are putting not only the fishing industry but the nation in a grave position at the EUs mercy”.

“Unless the political establishment wants to self-destruct when the public realises what they have done they must take back full control in March 2019”.

The campaign for an Independent Britain would like to point out that, while fully sharing Fishing for Leave’s concerns about Mrs May’s statement, it does not believe that this damaging transitional arrangement is anything more than a figment of her imagination, as we pointed out here.
We would also wish to thank Heather Wheeler MP for her comments on this press release. She said “This is a complete nonsense and wrong. We are giving notice on fishing and we are taking back our fishing limits and quotas.” CIB is seeking further information and clarification from ministers and any replies will be posted in due course.  Mrs Wheeler was a staunch supporter of Leave during the referendum.

 

 

Fishing for Leave welcomes Michael Gove’s statement on discarding

This press release first appeared on the Fishing for Leave website.

It was good to hear Secretary of State Michael Gove at Conservative Conference and a sincere thanks for his kind words to John Ashworth – the unfaltering founder of the fight to free Britain’s fishing from the EU and CFP.

One of the original Brexiteers in the 90s, without John’s encyclopaedic constitutional knowledge of the EU treaties we may have never known nor understood the EU and its implications– many still do not.

Markets and Morals dictate discarding – where fishermen are forced to discard the “wrong” fish to match quotas – must end.

Quotas cause discards. Discarding distorts information on effort and abundance creating inaccurate science. Poor science leads to poor quotas perpetuating a system that only reflect quota limits and talks to itself in a downward spiral.

Banning discards addresses the symptom (discards) not the cause (quotas). ‘Choke species’ will see vessels have to stop fishing on exhausting their lowest quota to avoid any discarding –bankrupting the majority of the fleet and finishing off communities Brexit or not.

Fishing for Leave looks forward to continuing to work with government on the world leading, bespoke British system of refined effort control (days-at-sea) we propose which solves both choke species by ending the cause – quotas.

Allowing vessels to land all catches in exchange for a limit on time at sea – meaning catch less but land all –will provide real-time science and management.

Government must accelerate engagement so this viable alternative is there to replace the CFP. Otherwise, due to lack of alternative, Britain will remain with the disastrous status quo of the CFP, quotas and discards or a ban that will finish the fleet.

The Icelandic approach is the quota system on steroids. It will accelerate the consolidation of the industry, especially as choke species under a quota system and discard ban will push what little fleet is left out, with only a few big operators able to survive.

Such a result would only benefit a few big operators and ‘slipper skippers’ who rent quota. Anyone advocating replicating what has happened in Iceland has a narrow perception of accelerating an “all for one – none for all” system.

Consolidation to a few, as in Iceland, will make it impossible to rejuvenate the industry and communities so everyone – large or small can survive and thrive.

Coastal constituencies that voted for Brexit and Conservative did not do so for an increased dose of the same bad medicine of Quotas in some sort of continuation of the CFP.

Continuing the same bad system in London instead of Brussels is no solution. Especially when there is a viable alternative that is more sustainable, gives accurate science and would allow a £6.3bn industry and communities to be rebuilt as a beacon of Brexit.

The Secretary of State and this government cannot continue the same system on steroids as in Iceland to appease Remainers (who want to stay aligned with the EU) or to appease a few big interests and slipper skippers.

Many of who were happy to stay in the EU and to see the majority of the British Industry thrown to the Wolves so they can take all.