SNP confusion over fishing policy

The roots of the SNP lie in the fishing communities of the North East of Scotland. The recent desire for Scottish independence, in other words, was borne out of a desire to regain national control over fisheries, which by then were under control of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

Now, of course, the SNP seems hell-bent on securing a further referendum on independence in order to rejoin the EU after Brexit. That, however, would mean rejoining the Common Fisheries Policy – and on even more disadvantageous terms than the present arrangements.

So what are we to make of those SNP MPs who have signed a pledge that would protect fishermen by, in effect, keeping Scotland out of the EU?

Signatories include Mike Weir, the party’s chief whip, and Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford. The pledge could not be more specific:- “We must avoid any policy, practice, regulation or treaty which could return us to the Common Fisheries Policy and the enforced giveaway of almost two-thirds of our fish stocks.” If this doesn’t mean staying out of the EU after Brexit, what does it mean?

True, the Conservatives, under Michael Howard, considered repatriating UK fisheries policy without leaving the EU, using the so-called “notwithstanding” clause which allowed the Westminster Parliament to enact legislation “any provisions of the European Communities Act notwithstanding” – in other words, to override the EU. Would Scotland, however, newly back into the EU fold, wish to embark on such a confrontational act, even assuming the Scottish Parliament actually possessed similar powers?

While Dr Whiteford insisted that the party’s policy “has always been consistent” in its opposition to CFP, the charges of hypocrisy levelled by Murdo Fraser, a Scottish Conservative MEP and fellow-signatory, are not without foundation. Ultimately, the SNP has a choice. Does it want to seize the opportunities provided by Brexit to rebuild the Scottish fishing industry or does it want to complete the work begun by Edward Heath in wrecking Scotland’s coastal communities completely by dragging the country back into the EU and thus the Common Fisheries Policy it was formed to oppose? It cannot do both.

Photo by stusmith_uk

Conservatives Must Exorcise the Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing

Press release from Fishing for Leave

Fishermen’s organisation Fishing for Leave have questioned the government’s electoral resolve on repatriating Britain’s fishing waters and resources that were so shamefully surrendered by Edward Heath as “expendable” in the rush to join the EEC.

They cite that the government’s continued failure to rescind the London Fisheries Convention 1964 is a tangible example that there is no commitment or resolve in government to take back national control of one of Britain’s greatest national resources.

Fishing for Leave spokesman Alan Hastings said “By failing to serve the 2 years notice it the London Convention requires at the same time as Article 50, EU vessels will still have unfettered access to fish in UK waters between 6 and 12 nautical miles after UK withdrawal from the EU”.

“By continuing to prevaricate on scrapping this Convention the government has squandered the opportunity to take back control of all our fishing waters as per international law and in doing so secure the strongest diplomatic hand of controlling all access”.

“Reclaiming our fishing waters and resources can give more sustainable management and would be worth £6.3 billion and which will rejuvenate coastal communities by creating tens of thousands of jobs”.

“A Conservative government must exorcise the abject betrayal of Britain’s fishing and coastal communities and correct the past injustices inflicted on them as they were sacrificed to the EU by politicians complicit in the EUs agenda”.

“A Conservative government must categorically commit to reclaiming all sovereignty and control over UK waters. To scrapping the London Convention, to not adopting the CFP with the Great Repeal Bill for political convenience and to commit to implementing an entirely new, uniform UK policy that will rejuvenate the industry across the whole UK and end the shameful rules that force fishermen to discard upto 50% of their catch”.

 “All it would take is for Mrs May, Conservative MPs and party to show political will and determination by giving a cast iron manifesto commitment on fishing which can be a beacon of success and one of the “acid tests” for the government on Brexit”.

MIKE HOOKEM

EU Fisheries Committee MEP Mike Hookem joined in the criticism of the governments inaction and commitment on Fishing saying “I am yet to be convinced that Theresa Mays government has any intention of repatriating UK fishing to our sovereignty”.

“Time and again in the EU parliament we see British MEPs voting down amendments that aim to repatriate sovereignty to this country.  The fact is the political establishment are so intertwined with the EU that they cannot see the wood from the trees and understand what is best for Britain”.

“Look at towns Like Grimsby, Lowestoft, Whitby, Fleetwood and any of the other traditional port that have had their livelihoods decimated and their communities destroyed through the political establishment sell out to the CFP”.

“We now have an opportunity to regenerate and reinvest in these fishing communities and make them the thriving hubs of industry once more. All it would take is the political will and determination to rebuild the ports and towns that have suffered at politicians hands in the past”

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?

Sorry, Douglas, but you are a bit premature

Douglas Carswell resigned from UKIP last month and now sits as an independent MP. On his resignation, which was announced a matter of days after Mrs May triggered Article 50, he said “It’s a case of job done…..we have achieved what we were established to do.”

In other words, he felt that UKIP had served its purpose – a theme to which he returned yesterday during a speech at an event hosted by the Institute for Government:- “I think we’ve done our job, and I think we should award ourselves a medal, or a knighthood, and take pride that we’ve won….if you’ve won a battle or a war you disband and you go home”.

But is Mr Carswell right in saying that the job is done? Winning the referendum last June against all the odds was an amazing achievement and the triggering of Article 50 last month to begin our divorce from the EU was a truly significant milestone for our country, but there are still hard campaigns to be fought in the next two years if Brexit is truly to be Brexit.

Many readers will be aware of the campaign by Fishing for Leave to  see a swift denunciation of the 1964 London Convention and the exclusion of all CFP-related legislation from the “Great Repeal Bill” so that we will regain control of all our waters once we leave the EU. While there have been a few positive signs that the Government is listening, a long, hard battle will need to be fought if we are to secure a Brexit that truly means Brexit for our fishing industry.

An equally fierce battle will need to be fought to extricate the UK from the European Arrest Warrant. Chief Police Officers support continuing UK participation in this odious scheme and they have the backing of the Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Last month, the Campaign for an Independent Britain hosted a meeting where legal expert Torquil Dick-Erikson highlighted the grave flaws in the EAW and mentioned some of the miscarriages of justice which it has engendered. Thankfully, there is a growing awareness of this issue among Leave-supporting Tory MPs and Peers, but it will not be easy to force Ms Rudd to climb down.

A third critical issue is foreign policy. Our friends in Veterans for Britain are seriously concerned about our being far too closely linked to the EU’s military policy even after Brexit.  On independence, our foreign policy will inevitably diverge from that of the EU. There may well be instances when we will wish to work alongside them, but we need to keep our distance from the European Defence Agency if Brexit is truly to mean Brexit.

If that is not enough, the battle is not won when we have taken the UK out of the EU. The EU needs to be taken out of  many UK citizens, especially young people. Those of us who took part in debates in schools and universities were made all too aware of the damaging effect of years of pro-EU propaganda. Of course, some europhilia among our young people is very shallow and superficial, revolving around the ungrounded fear that Brexit will stop them travelling around Europe. Such concerns can be easily dissipated by older people relating their experiences of inter-railing in the 1960s, years before we joined the EU.

For some, however, their love of the EU goes deeper and will require somewhat more intensive de-programming. A re-vamp of our GCSE history syllabus is essential as so few young people have any knowledge of our development as a nation. This, of course, will be mean challenging the far too prevalent self-loathing mentality which likes to talk about racism and slavery and generally to demean our great country, ignoring our many remarkable achievements over the centuries which prove that we have the capacity to manage our own affairs – and indeed, to run our country much better without the EU’s “help”.

Mr Carswell’s comments were directed primarily towards his former party. While this website is not the place to debate whether his assessment of the state of UKIP is correct or not, we can but hope that he and those who agree with him will resist any temptation to put their feet up as far as the battle for independence is concerned. The referendum result and the triggering of Article 50 were indeed causes for celebration, but the battle for independence is not over yet.

Now available: new fisheries booklet “Seizing the moment”

Following on from our earlier booklet by John Ashworth,  The Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing, the Campaign for an Independent Britain is pleased to announce that a further booklet on the subject of fisheries is now available. Seizing the Moment, also written by John, evaluates the options for UK fisheries following Brexit and proposes a policy radically different from the EU’s failed Common Fisheries Policy which will rejuvenate our fishing industry and coastal communities.

It is available to download as a pdf here (cover) and here (main text)

To order hard copies, please contact [email protected]

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.