The Government’s eagerly-awaited white paper, “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union” appeared yesterday. It consists of over 70 pages in total, although one or two pages are blank.
It has twelve sections, which are as below:-
1. Providing certainty and clarity – We will provide certainty wherever we can as we approach the negotiations.
2. Taking control of our own laws – We will take control of our own statute book and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the UK.
3. Strengthening the Union – We will secure a deal that works for the entire UK – for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and all parts of England. We remain fully committed to the Belfast Agreement and its successors.
4. Protecting our strong and historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area – We will work to deliver a practical solution that allows for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area, whilst protecting the integrity of our immigration system and which protects our strong ties with Ireland.
5. Controlling immigration – We will have control over the number of EU nationals coming to the UK.
6. Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU – We want to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in other Member States, as early as we can.
7. Protecting workers’ rights – We will protect and enhance existing workers’ rights.
8. Ensuring free trade with European markets – We will forge a new strategic partnership with the EU, including a wide reaching, bold and ambitious free trade agreement, and will seek a mutually beneficial new customs agreement with the EU.
9. Securing new trade agreements with other countries – We will forge ambitious free trade relationships across the world.
10. Ensuring the UK remains the best place for science and innovation – We will remain at the vanguard of science and innovation and will seek continued close collaboration with our European partners.
11. Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism – We will continue to work with the EU to preserve European security, to fight terrorism, and to uphold justice across Europe.
12. Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU – We will seek a phased process of implementation, in which both the UK and the EU institutions and the remaining EU Member States prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us.
After reading it through, the abiding impression it creates is that it has identified the key issues we will face in leaving the EU and also sets out in very broad terms what the Government would like a post-Brexit UK to look like. What is missing is the detail, including how we will arrive at the end point.
To take one subject which will be familiar to readers of this website – fishing. All the White Paper tells us is that “it is in both our interests to reach a mutually beneficial deal that works for the UK and the EU’s fishing communities. Following EU exit, we will want to ensure a sustainable and profitable seafood sector and deliver a cleaner, healthier and more productive marine environment.” There is no detail regarding what is to supersede the Common Fisheries Policy, even though there would be huge problems if it were repatriated into UK Law.
For instance, Regulation 1380/2013, the most important fisheries regulation, contains numerous mention of “union waters”. On leaving the EU, the waters up to 200 nautical miles from our shoreline (or the median point where we are less than 400 miles from another country’s coasts) will no longer be union waters, so a lot of re-writing would be necessary. Why bother, however, when the CFP and its quota system is so seriously flawed? We can but hope that by the time negotiations get under way, the Government realises the importance of excluding fisheries legislation from any large-scale repatriation of the EU Acquis into UK law.
The White Paper raises the issue of the EU customs union and our future relationship with it. The Government has been very enthusiastic about wanting to make the most of our freedom to strike our own trade deals but there is very little detail about how it proposes to maintain trade with the EU. “There are a number of options for any new customs arrangement, including a completely new agreement, or for the UK to remain a signatory to some of the elements of the existing arrangements.”
The positive assessment of the UK’s involvement in Ukraine (under Section 11) does not make for happy reading, sadly. Now we are on the way out, it is time to leave the EU to its own empire building and to join President Trump in seeking rapprochement with Russia rather than than continuing foolishly and unnecessarily to antagonise Moscow.
Of course, this white paper has been produced to satisfy demands by MPs to be given some idea about the Government’s Brexit plans. The government has a bit of a tightrope to walk. MPs understandably don’t want to be left in the dark but at the same time, there are good reason for Mrs May and her team keeping their cards close to their chest so as not to give too much away to the people from the EU with whom they must negotiate.
On balance, however, anyone who has been listening to the recent speeches by Mrs May and her Brexit team would have not found much in this document which they did not already know. It defines the important tasks which needs to be addressed and paints a very positive vision of what life will be like once we’re out. How the Government will take us to this point is another matter and we hope more will be revealed soon as it cannot afford to get this wrong.
We now have less than three months to wait until Mrs May will invoke Article 50 and we formally begin the process of leaving the EU. This means we will finally see her “Brexit means Brexit ” statement fleshed out, although it is doubtful if we will know all the detail by the end of March, especially as there are likely to be a good few twists and turns between the invocation of Article 50 and Independence Day.
During 2017 the Campaign for an Independent Britain will continue to fight for the best possible Brexit deal, working alongside other like-minded individuals and organisations. We will let you more as our plans develop, but here are a few guidelines which we believe will help ensure Brexit is successful.
Firstly, Brexit DOES NOT mean a trade-off between single market access and free movement of people from the EU. If the Government is considering remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA) – possibly by re-joining EFTA, the European Free Trade Area – as an interim position, the “four freedoms” of the Single Market are not indivisible for a non-EU country, in spite of claims to the contrary by the likes of Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian Prime Minister.
Iceland suspended free movement of capital following its banking crisis and, as has been pointed out on this website and elsewhere, Liechtenstein imposed restrictions on free movement of people over 20 years ago. Readers may remember that David Cameron’s “deal” included a so-called “emergency brake” – an agreement with the other 27 member states that if we voted to remain in the EU, we could restrict the in-work benefits paid to migrants for four years.
All Mr Cameron was doing was asking permission to apply Article 112 of the EEA agreement. Outside the EU, if we took the EFTA route, we wouldn’t have to ask the 27 member states and could impose far tougher restrictions than merely restricting benefits. Like Liechtenstein, we could drastically limit the numbers too. Liechtenstein has done nothing more than making use of an article in an existing agreement. We could do the same if the government chooses to go down the EFTA route.
Of course, we do not know if this is Mrs May’s plan, but it is inconceivable, given the number of on-line articles and research papers which have addressed this subject, that she and her advisers are not aware of Article 112 and Liechtenstein’s use of it. It is high time that the canard of the indivisibility of the “four freedoms” was laid to rest once and for all.
So what else does Brexit mean?
Firstly, freedom from the European Court of Justice. UK law and its courts must be the final arbiter of British justice. We should pull out of participation in the European Arrest Warrant, which has resulted in UK residents being sent for trial abroad on hearsay evidence. Furthermore, Brexit must lead to the return of trial by jury and other features of our historic legal system which have gradually been eroded by our membership of the EU.
Next, Freedom from any involvement with the European Defence Agency and an independent foreign policy. We should obviously work together with the EU where it is mutually beneficial so to do, but we should not be involved with the EU’s empire building in the Balkans or former soviet republics such as the Ukraine.
Brexit must mean an end to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). As John Ashworth has argued, the concept of “Community waters”, the quota system, and the ridiculous amount of fish caught by boats from other EU member states in what are our national waters by right is a disgrace that has cost thousands of jobs in the fishing industry. The opportunity to revive our coastal communities through a well-designed fishing policy on similar lines to the Faroese scheme must not be passed over.
A replacement to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must also be designed. Unlike the CFP, which hardly benefits any UK fishermen at all (apart from those who have bought quota and then re-sell for profit), the CAP’s single farm payment is a lifeline for many in the agricultural sector. As an interim measure, a single payment system managed in Westminster rather than Brussels may be the answer, but looking further ahead, something more imaginative is essential as the CAP, initially designed to support small French farmers, has never been a good way to manage farming in the UK.
Finally, Brexit means not only taking the UK out of the EU but taking the EU out of the hearts of UK citizens. Schoolchildren and students have suffered years of indoctrination through pro-EU propaganda. They will be the biggest beneficiaries of Brexit, but as anyone who has taken part in debates on the EU in schools and universities has discovered, most of them don’t realise it at the moment.
So there will be much to keep us in the Campaign for an Independent Britain busy as 2017 approaches. On that note, may we wish all our members and supporters a Happy New Year.
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.
To recap: Some politicians knew right from the start that the CFP amounted to a betrayal of our fishermen
When National Fishery limits were extended from the 3 nautical mile limit to 12 and then 200/median line in the 1960s and 1970s, British boats which formerly fished far away from the UK found themselves squeezed out of their traditional grounds from the Grands Banks, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Russia. The middle water fleet likewise found itself excluded from Faroese waters.
Under normal circumstances, our fishermen would have been compensated for this loss of access by being given exclusive rights to our new UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 miles/median line. Instead, however, the Westminster Parliament decided to give the people’s resource away. They blocked that option and instead of supporting our own industry, preferred to let the fishing fleets of other EU member states catch most of the fish in what are our waters. Now, a visit to many fishing ports around the UK coast will reveal all too clearly the devastation and decline this policy has caused.
John Silkin, the Labour Fisheries Minister did all he could in 1977-8 to try and obtain a British exclusive 50 nautical mile zone, but as he stated in a House of Commons statement on 19th. January 1978, “There was considerable opposition to my demands on this question on the basis that they were contrary to the Treaty of Accession”.
How often have we heard that? “Go and read the Treaties!” It will be a huge relief when Article 50 is finally invoked, as two years later the EU Treaties will cease to apply to the UK.
Five years later on 25th January 1983, Regulation 170/83 had just come into force, which introduced the percentage share out of all individual species, known in the trade as “Relative Stability”, which the Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher hailed a great success. Six days later, however, Peter Walker, the fisheries minister, painted a different picture:- “The reality is that if the United Kingdom, instead of demanding anything like the historic proportion of Europe’s fish that it had caught, demanded a 200-mile limit and 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of Europe’s fish, that would mean the massive destruction of the fishing industries of most of our friends and partners in western Europe.”
In other words, it was anything but a success for our fishermen, although wonderful news for the fleets of other EU member states.
As has been pointed out before in these articles, the quota system was part of the political integrationist agenda. The commitment to the creation of an United States of Europe was far more important that introducing a fisheries policy built on sensible conservation practise. Each member state was given a quota for each species which the National Governments then distributed among their own fleet.
Why, however, did our government allow our allocation to gain a monetary value? Goodness knows, unless they knew that such action would end up with the allocated resource coming into the hands of a favoured few – including foreign hands – and thus getting rid of British vessels in order to comply with our Treaty obligations.
Non-EU quota based systems are not the answer
Brexit provides us with an historic opportunity to repair the damage which EU membership has done to our fishing industry. Recently, a number of well-intentioned articles and reports have been published on this subject, written by persons with no sea-going fishing experience. The net result has been a number of proposals which, sadly, are of little if any value.
For instance, knowing that Iceland and Norway are not in the EU and have large fishing fleets, some pieces are proposing that an independent UK uses their fisheries management system as a template. Unfortunately, their assumption that a non-EU country would automatically operate a better fisheries management system has proved misplaced. Both Norway and Iceland operate quota systems and thus their fishing industry has suffered similar social consequences – small family businesses have been forced out of the profession, affecting entire coastal communities.
Statistical and factual confusion
This is not the only mistake in some fisheries proposals. The Adam Smith Institute made a mistake in its fisheries proposal with the chronology of the introduction to the 200 mile/median point zone.
Statistics is another area which also needs to be handled carefully. Lumping all the sectors of the fishing industry together is confusing, as within a single heading are several different sectors, from small boats operating near the shore to large deep-water trawlers using different methods of fishing.
So, to take the 2015 Eurostat statistics on overall vessel tonnage, Spain is shown as having double the tonnage of both France and ourselves, whereas statistics based on overall engine power of the total fleet shows Spain and ourselves having only 75% the engine power of the French fleet. This is because different vessels of different horsepower are used for different types of fishing.
Confusion can also occur when considering the tonnage of species caught, as you can catch huge numbers of some species which have relatively little value, whereas with some species, there is great value in small tonnage.
The overall tonnage taken, (in thousands of tonnes) per nation in 2015 was:-
Even given the caveat about the different value of different species, these figures show the massive potential out there. The tonnage for an independent UK, free from the fetters of the CFP, should be the same or better than Norway.
Things get even more complicated if one attempts to calculate how many fish the other EU member states take out of the UK zone, because figures of the percentage share amongst the member states per area zone is broken down by species. The UK may catch as many as 90% of the total catch of one individual species in our own EEZ but as little as 10% of another. Realistically, the figure is about 40% overall, which mean that vessels from other EU member states take 60% of what is the British people’s resource. France has admitted up to 70% of its total catch comes from the British EEZ.
No other EU Member State gave away its own resources to the degree that we did. We cannot continue to do this, but on the other hand, if on Independence Day, we swung to the opposite extreme and allowed no EU vessel in our waters, the consequences would be dramatic and damaging. What is required is a transitional time-limited process. Fortunately, on Independence Day, when the Treaties and Regulations cease to apply, we will revert back to our Fishery Limits 1976 Act, which functions under UNCLOS 111, through article 62
Utilization of the living resources
- The coastal State shall promote the objective of optimum utilization of the living resources in the exclusive economic zone without prejudice to article 61.
- The coastal State shall determine its capacity to harvest the living resources of the exclusive economic zone. Where the coastal State does not have the capacity to harvest the entire allowable catch, it shall, through agreements or other arrangements and pursuant to the terms, conditions, laws and regulations referred to in paragraph 4, give other States access to the surplus of the allowable catch, having particular regard to the provisions of articles 69 and 70.
This is a way whereby a transfer of operations could be fairly moved across in a time-limited period, with no permanent right of access conceded.
In my final article, I will look at the benefits and potential of Brexit fisheries, but it must not be forgotten what Theresa May said in her Conference speech on 2nd October: The authority of EU law in Britain will end. This,after all, is what Brexit is about.
We trust that we can take her at her word and that the future of the British people’s resource and the revitalisation of our fishing industry and coastal communities rests in the hands of our elected representatives at Westminster and no one else.
A good fisheries policy could be a means of binding the UK together, mitigating the worst aspects of devolution and maybe even hastening the decline of the Scottish nationalists.
Before looking at the reasons why, for the benefit of any reader who has not been following this series, it is vital to point out that different rules apply for two different fishing areas, firstly 0 to 6 and 6 to 12 nautical miles from the shoreline, which will be referred to as the 12 mile limit and secondly, the waters from 12 to 200 nautical miles from the shoreline (or the median point where two countries are separated by less than 400 nautical miles), known as Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs)
Both areas are European Union waters, but the UK government has secured a derogation for the 12 mile limit, allowing us to restrict access by vessels from other EU member states. The derogation lasts for only 10 years, so every decade, we have to go back to the EU asking if they will kindly let us have a further 10 years’ transitional derogation. Meanwhile, while a derogation is in force, the UK government can devolve, for example, the management of Scottish waters in the 12 mile limit to the Scottish Parliament. No such options are available for the 12 to 200 mile area, because the living marine resource in this area (fish and shellfish) is a continual exclusive competency of the EU. We have no derogation from this principle apart from planning and nature conservation, which has already been devolved, so therefore there can be no question here of any more devolution from Westminster to Holyrood. We don’t have the power to devolve anyting further.
The full devolution of the 12 mile limit has not been a bad thing, because the inshore sector is best managed at a local level. Unfortunately, the Scottish Parliament seems to be more interested in environmental issues than in protecting the interests of coastal communities, thus denying them the chance to benefit from the rich fishing resources in areas like the Shetland Isles. Now Brexit has raised a new series of issues for Holyrood. With Scotland supporting continued EU membership and few Scottish politicians expecting us to vote to leave the EU, little thought has thus far been given by Scotland’s politicians to the possibilities for the Scottish fishing industry without the millstone of the CFP round its neck.
If the Westminster Government decides not to operate a sort of shadow Common Fisheries Policy, all UK waters out to the 200 nautical mile/median limit will revert to UK control. This provides an excellent chance to rejuvenate coastal communities throughout the UK, including in Scotland. Inevitably, the Scottish National Party will demand that all control of Scotland’s waters comes back to Edinburgh.
However, things start getting very messy at this point, given that the SNP is talking about a second referendum on independence from the UK so that if Scotland leaves the UK, it can then rejoin the EU. Assuming that on Independence Day, control of our EEZ reverts to Westminster, our Parliament can then devolve control of Scottish waters right up to the 200 nautical mile/median point back to Holyrood. Yet if Scotland votes to re-join the EU, these waters will be handed back to Brussels and would be subject to CFP rules once again – but with a sting in the tail. Scotland would have to share in the overall reduced EU capacity required by the loss to EU waters of the English, Northern Irish and Welsh EEZ’s. In other words, Scottish fishermen would end up being allowed even less quota in their own waters than they currently enjoy, especially if they do not manage to negotiate any derogation for the 12 mile limit.
There is a strange irony here. The roots of the SNP lie in the Scottish fishing communities. Traditionally Conservative seats, the voters deserted the Tories because of the antics of Edward Heath and his shameless betrayal of our fishing industry. Now the SNP is doing the same. Instead of taking the lead in fighting for a better deal for those fishermen whose forebears brought the party into being, by seeking to take Scotland back into the EU, it wants to return them to the miserable yoke of the CFP under worse terms than before.
Such a policy is sheer folly. Of course, much depends on the shape of the future UK fishing policy post-Brexit, but the chance to take the wind out of the SNP’s sails – and thus save the Union – by developing a fishing policy along the lines suggested in these articles is yet another reason for Mrs May’s government to avoid creating any sort of shadow CFP once we leave the EU.