Why are we forsaken?

A Heartfelt Letter by Fishermen Who Feel Forsaken

My name is Steve Barratt and I live in Ramsgate Kent. I work in an industry that is not wanted by either the EU or the UK Government and everything that could have possibly been done to stop me from going to work has been done.

I expect alarm bells are ringing as to what I actually do for a living, could I be a drug runner, a people trafficker, an internet hacker, a hit man or something similar?

Well, you will be pleased to know that I am none of the above – I am in fact a commercial fisherman operating an inshore, under 10m boat out of Ramsgate Harbour.

I work in a mixed fishery and catch quite a variety of fish such as cod, bass, plaice, skate, dogfish, dover sole and many more. It is impossible to avoid these fish when in a situation whereby I have no quota for a particular species.

When I catch fish with no quota the EU ruling is that I must return it to the sea. In most cases these fish are dead or have little chance of survival. The EU are aware of this and despite receiving many protests and plea’s to change the quota system are not prepared to do so.

They are hell bent on making everyone abide by the CFP (Common Fisheries Policy). This is an inept quota system where fish can only be landed if quota is available. If quotas not available, they have to be dumped dead into the sea.

To make matters worse, the UK Government is hell bent on enforcing these rules and regulations. They have employed numerous people and organisations to police any fish landings that are made in the UK.

The EU has decreed skates and rays are ‘endangered’ and have given virtually no quota for this species. Fishermen are seeing an explosion in skates and rays, they are everywhere, yet because quotas don’t reflect this we have to dump skate dead into the sea.

We then have to keep catching and dumping skate as we try to catch other fish to make a living. This makes it impossible for a boat to be profitable and does nothing for conservation.

Our Government needs to be held to account over this gross miscarriage of justice and the rules and regulations need to change to provide the industry with a better way of operating. Unfortunately, this cannot be done until we successfully leave the EU.

Only then will we be able to take back control of our territorial waters, abolish the Common Fisheries Policy and implement a better and more sustainable method of management of the industry – the government can’t keep the status quo for the sake of the fishermen or the fish.

Under no circumstances can this industry be involved in any so-called transition period where we’re stuck in the CFP. Out must be out on 29th March next year before what is left of the British fishing industry is consigned to museum and memory.

Welcome Intervention from Mr Gove & Ms Davidson Needs Clarity

Fishermen’s organisation Fishing for Leave strongly welcomed Mr Gove and Ms Davidson’s words but say more clarity is needed and the government needs to stop playing semantics.

Michael Gove and Ruth Davidson’s interventions come days after it seemed that senior government figures would fail to rebuff the EUs demand that a condition of a Free Trade Agreement is continuation of; “existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources”.

Mr Gove and Mrs Davidson stated their commitment that;

“As we leave the EU, we want the UK to become an independent coastal state, negotiating access annually with our neighbours….. the Prime Minister has been clear: Britain will leave the CFP as of March 2019”.

Fishing for Leave says it is welcome that both have lent their support to this but say where this turns south and these statements can ring hollow is they are impossible to fulfil if fishing is trapped in a transition and clarity is needed on this.

They it is an admission that fishing will be in a transition in the words;

“during the implementation period we will ensure that British fishermen’s interests are properly safeguarded.”

Alan Hastings of FFL said “It’s stating the obvious that the UK will officially “leave” the CFP on March 2019 as our membership ceases under Article 50. However, the transition means re-obeying all EU law after we leave meaning Brexit In Name Only (BRINO)”.

“During a transition the EU can enforce any detrimental legislation to cull the UK fleet which makes the pledge to safeguard British fishermen and a bright future academic and hollow”.

“There’s been well publicised representations to the government and MPs that being trapped in a transition will see a large proportion of the UK fleet culled under forthcoming inept EU policy that is already agreed”.

“This would allow the EU to use international law (Article62.2 of UNCLOS) to claim the “surplus” resources the UK would no longer have the fleet capacity to catch”.

“So why does the government stop playing semantics and clearly state in unequivocal terms not that we ‘leave the CFP’ but that there will be no continuation of it in any way shape or form post 2019?”

“Until that assurance is forthcoming everything else is a PR exercise playing on words that folk are getting sick fed up with regards Brexit”.

WELCOME COMMENT ON RESOURCES MUST BE ACHIEVED

FFL commend sboth Mr Gove and Ms Davidson for reinforcing that “we agree we must deliver a fairer allocation for the British fleet in our own waters”.  This echoes the PMs speech of “fairer allocation of fishing opportunities for the UK fishing industry.”

Fishing for Leave highlighted that under international law and ‘zonal attachment’ a nation is entitled to a proportion of any shared stocks based on the abundance of that stock in its waters.

Alan continued; “We hope and look forward to Mr Gove and Defra publicising that a “fair share” is no less than the 750,000 tons of fish the EU catches in British waters every year that are rightfully ours in exchange for the 90,000 tons we catch in theirs”.

“Anything less than fulfilling the government’s commitment to work under international law and therefore this international premise of zonal attachment would see a token gesture towards fairer shares”.

It’s music to hear senior politicians acknowledge and advocate that “We believe it is vital that we regain control over our own fisheries management…. we both agree that our fishing industry stands to benefit from our departure from the common fisheries policy”

“It is vital that the opportunity of repatriating the 60% of the fish the EU catches in British waters, which could double the British fishing industry’s worth to £6-8bn every year, is achieved”.

“FFL looks forward to the government substantiating the welcome whispers from Defra that new UK policy will give fair opportunity to all fishermen under a more sustainable management system to see the dividend of repatriating our waters help to rejuvenate coastal communities”.

“This is needed to replace the environmentally disastrous CFP which has forced consolidation to ever fewer boats and ports but if it is vital to regain control and they recognise fishing an benefit why trap fishing in a transition for 21months where the EU can move the goal posts?”

STILL NO REBUTTAL OF TRADING FISHING FOR TRADE DEALS

There is still no rebuttal to the PMs speech and Philip Hammond’s suggestion on agreeing shares and access to UK waters as a giveaway for a wider deal.

The PM said;

As part of a new economic partnership we want to continue to work with the EU to manage shared stocks in a sustainable way and to agree reciprocal access to waters

This statement and Hammond’s comments openly state that fishing will be tied and sacrificed as negotiating capital for a new economic partnership.

All this flies in the face of Mr Gove and George Eustice’s earlier comments at an EFRA Select Committee that fishing access and resources wouldn’t be tied to wider trade negotiations.

It’s time for the government to come out fighting to unequivocally succeed on this “acid test” by clearly saying there will be continuation or any ties to the CFP after March 2019 and that we really will take back control.

The Council spells it out – but David Davis doesn’t

The latest draft negotiating guidelines from the European Council on Brexit couldn’t be clearer when it comes to fishing. Section 7 begins as follows:-

“As regards the core of the economic relationship , the European Council confirms its readiness to initiate work towards a free trade agreement (FTA), to be finalised and concluded once the UK is no longer a Member State. Such an agreement cannot offer the same benefits as Membership and cannot amount to participation in the Single Market or parts thereof.

This agreement would address:

i) trade in goods, with the aim of covering all sectors, which should be subject to zero tariffs and no quantitative restrictions with appropriate accompanying rules of origin. In this context, reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained.”

Let us be quite clear:- this document is not discussing a transitional agreement but a long-term trade deal. In other words, unless we allow essentially a continuation of the Common Fisheries Policy in all but name,  there will be no deal on trade.

Will our government  show the necessary resolve to indicate in no uncertain terms that the jobs of our fishermen are not going to be used as bargaining chips?

Given David Davis’ performance at the most recent meeting of the European Scrutiny Committee, it is hard tt feel confident about this. Even when it came ot the transitional arrangements, he was very evasive. Questioned by both Kate Hoey MP and Richard Drax MP, he would not state clearly and unambiguously that our Exclusive Economic Zone will be managed by the UK authorities alone after March 29th 2018. He said “we are not trading away our fishing rights” but he also said “we haven’t begun to discuss fishing”. Well, Mr Davis, the EU has made its position clear. It wants a continuation of the CFP not only in the transitional period (if it happens) but beyond.  There isn’t much to discuss – only one word needs to be uttered: NO.   

Please see also Fishing for Leave’s comments on the draft negotiating guidelines.

Filling in the blanks

This past week has seen a flurry of activity on the Brexit front, but it is debatable whether we are any further forward in the process of achieving an exit from the EU which is both reasonably seamless and a genuine parting of the ways.

The first shots were fired by the European Commission  in the shape of a draft withdrawal agreement, which appeared on  Wednesday 28th February. Barely had the text been made public when Mrs May responded, saying that “no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to it.” The biggest bone of contention was the proposal that,  in the event of the two sides failing to agree on a solution to the Irish border problem,  Northern Ireland to remain in the EU’s customs union with a border between the province and the rest of the U.K.  Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party was equally forthright, stating in a tweet that “EU draft text is constitutionally unacceptable & would be economically catastrophic for Northern Ireland.”

Responding these swift rejections of the Commision’s proposal, Donald Tusk, who visited Mrs May in London, stated that the document was built on last December’s draft agreement on “Phase 1” of the divorce talks, with the blanks filled in, not out of any desire to provoke but merely because the UK has so far not come up with any proposals for dealing with the Irish border issue. “you fill in the blanks if you don’t like our suggestions” was the gist of his remarks. Michel Barnier added that the EU document has addressed the Irish border issue “in a practical, pragmatic legal fashion.”

So with there being no meeting of minds on Wednesday, would Mrs May shed any more light on how her government was going to fill in the blanks? She gave another speech on Brexit on Friday March 2nd and regrettably, it did little to clarify matters.   She still does not seem to have any idea of the extreme unlikelihood of the  EU agreeing to a system of  mutual product recognition, completely outside its present arrangements of assuring the standards of goods arriving from outside the EU. She acknowledged that leaving the single market and customs union would mean  “our access to each other’s markets will be less than it is now. How could the EU’s structure of rights and obligations be sustained, if the UK – or any country – were allowed to enjoy all the benefits without all of the obligations?” Fair enough, but anyone hoping for detail on what alternative arrangement she wanted to make  was going to be disappointed.

It is astonishing how badly advised Mrs May seems to be. In dismissing “the Norway model”, she said “we would stay in the single market, {which} would mean having to implement new EU legislation automatically and in its entirety – and would also mean continued free movement.”

This website alone has pointed out on umpteen occasions that Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein only have to implement about one quarter of EU legislation and much of this relates to the technicalities of trade. What is more, Norway, if it so desired, could join Liechtenstein and unilaterally restrict freedom of movement from the EU using articles 112 and 113 of the EEA agreement. As an interim agreement, it reduces the burden of EU law by some 75% , compared with the EU’s proposals.

The only step forward, as Dr Richard North has pointed out, is that Mrs May acknowledged that many of these regulatory standards “are themselves underpinned by international standards set by non-EU bodies of which we will remain a member”. In particular, she noted that the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) “sets vehicle safety standards. Countries around the world.”

This speech, says Dr North, is “the first time in recorded history” that “we have a prime minister recognising that the EU is not the fount of all regulation and that “many” regulatory standards originate from “non-EU bodies”.

Much of the rest of the speech, sadly, was taken up with wishful thinking – good on mood music but totally lacking in any practical suggestions of how to move Brexit forward.

The biggest disappointments were that she did not announce the rejection of the EU’s proposals for a transitional arrangement- accepting every single part of EU law and any new ones they dream up for a period which may well extend beyond the projected 21 months.  Until this happens, there can be no real progress towards a deal which will be acceptable to her own MPs. Secondly, her comments on fisheries were a cause for concern:-“The UK will regain control over our domestic fisheries management rules and access to our waters.” That’s fine and if she had stopped there, everyone would be happy.

Unfortunately, she then continued “But as part of our economic partnership we will want to continue to work together to manage shared stocks in a sustainable way and to agree reciprocal access to waters and a fairer allocation of fishing opportunities for the UK fishing industry.”  These words do not suggest that she has yet been won over to Fishing For Leave’s exciting proposals to rejuvenate our fishing industry and coastal communities, which would make us once again a world leader. (see Fishing for Leave’s comments on her speech here)

Essentially, this week has just been an extension of the Brexit stalemate, even though some strong words have been said on both sides. How much longer can this last? In is now March 2018. In a year’s time, we will hopefully be leaving the EU. For all Mrs May’s talk of  “a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world”, we are none the wiser as to how she intends to achieve this.

EU Turns Up The Heat: Threatens to ‘Punish’ British Fishermen

Press release from Fishing for Leave

Fishing for Leave lambasted comments made in the Danish Media following the visit of EU Chief negotiator Michel Barnier to Denmark’s main fishing port Thyboron, saying; “You can keep your “Harshness!! – International law confers Britain full sovereignty and control over all our waters and resources!”

– EU Fishermen say; “Brexit has incredibly big impact on our company and all of Denmark’s fisheries. We rely on getting into British waters, he says, saying that 85 percent of the catch of the species of sand eel caught in Thyborøn takes place in British waters”.

Fishing for Leave spokesman Alan Hastings said; “As much as no British fishermen wishes personal ill on other fishermen, where were the EU tears when our resources robbed and communities decimated?”

“Does no one in the EU feel guilty that you built a future for the EU industry on robbing UK coastal communities of theirs?”

“Time for Michael Gove robustly to defend UK interests so we can rejuvenate our communities that were sacrificed with a detrimental deal that benefited the EU”.

Britain has the formal opportunity under international law to stop fishermen from Denmark and other EU countries fishing in British waters post-Brexit.

But fishermen in the EU, along with Michel Barnier, say such a decision could also have a negative impact on British fishing.

They say the EU would look to close EU markets to force Britain to continue current shares and access that see’s EU vessels catch EIGHT times more fish in UK waters as UK vessels do in EU waters 780,000 tons vs 90,000 tons.

“When it comes to fishing, we will talk about the topics that are directly related. Our access to British waters and their access to our market”, said the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier aboard the fisherman Meilsø when he visited fishermen in Thyborøn today (3rd March 18).

 “Monsier Barnier made it clear that there will be a negotiation with EU fishermen’s access to fishing in British waters and allowing British fishermen to sell their products on the EU’s internal market” says DR’s correspondent Ole Ryborg.

At this point, according to Ryborg’s Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen the Danish government; “will help Barnier to be harsh in negotiations with Britain in the fishing industry”.

Fishing for Leave responded to the threat by pointing out that the EU markets dependency on UK fish exports combined with EU losing the ability to catch 60% of the fish in UK waters would only increase EU markets necessity on UK fish.

Alan Hastings from FFL said “What the EU thinks is a position of strength is actually a weakness and that is their dependency on our resources as a critical part of their food supply”.

“This is no different from the cod wars when British vessels lost access to Norwegian and Icelandic grounds but almost immediately UK processors on Humberside started to import fish direct from Norway”.

“Remainers and the EU cite tariffs but when the cost of tariffs is weighed against the £3-4bn worth of resources which we can repatriate this offsets tariffs by a huge margin as UK fishermen will be able to land more of what they are otherwise forced to discard”

Alan concluded “Michel Barnier’s comments are a shot across the bow and the battle to restore our sovereignty & governance of UK waters is very much alive!

“Will the government capitulate to EU demands or stand up for British coastal communities and not use them as an ‘expendable’ bargaining chip for 2nd time in the face of EU belligerence?

“The big question for Michel Barnier is, why should the EU get continued access? The UK provides 50% of waters but EU relative stability only gives us 25% of our fish”.

“Fishing is massively important to UK communities too and the CFP has been an economic, social & environmental disaster. Brexit also allows environmentally and economically decent UK policy where we become equal of Norway & Iceland.”

“Taking back control is an “acid test” Michael Gove for this government in coastal constituencies. Will the government hold fast or face electoral oblivion in areas like Cornwall, Kent, East Anglia, Yorkshire and the NE of Scotland?”

The Beginning of the End for Britain’s Fishing?

Fishermen’s Organisation Fishing for Leave highlight that the leaked (and soon after published) Government DRAFT TEXT FOR DISCUSSION: IMPLEMENTATION PERIOD detailing the Government position on the Transition deal show a deliberate effort to fashion Brexit in name only.

The group accuses the government of engineering terms that fly in the face of the biggest democratic instruction in British history.

The document says the government believes-

The UK believes this document demonstrates that there is broad alignment between the UK and EU positions, with only a small number of areas requiring discussion.

Has enraged most Brexiteers who see this as a brazen confession that the government sees “broad alignment in position” as an admission the government is prepared to capitulate what they see as the EUs stringent transition terms.

The Terms of the transition as that although the UK will have officially left the EU and no longer be a member the UK will re-agree to obey all EU law after we leave. Many back bench brexiteers with Jacob Rees-Mogg heading them say Britain would be reduced to being some sort of ‘vassal state’.

Fishing for Leave say the document is a sneaky admission of the disastrous situation the government are digging not only fishing but the country as a whole

NOTES
The official terms in Article X+4 – Specific arrangements relating to Fisheries Policy – say;

[Paragraph 1] As regards the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities … for any period prior to the end of the Period (i.e. the transition), the EU and the UK shall agree the fishing opportunities related to the UK prior to the decision-making process within the Council. The United Kingdom shall participate alongside the EU and other coastal States in international fisheries negotiations.

The changes to paragraph [1] are to clarify the need for agreement between the UK and the EU with regards fishing opportunities during the (transition) Period, in advance of the formal processes at the December Fisheries Council, in which the UK will no longer have voting rights. The changes also reflect the consequences of the UK’s status as a third country for participation in negotiations with other coastal states.

They say that the text above is an admission that the government has to engineer an arrangement to allow the UK as a non-EU member but an independent coastal state to surrender its fisheries resources and waters to the EU as part of a transition deal where we must obey the CFP of “equal access to a common resource”.

Many Brexit groups have highlighted because the UK is would not be a member of the EU it cannot be officially recognised by other non-EU nations as being party to deals they have with the EU.

Fishing for Leave cites that this would work in reverse on fisheries As the UK will no longer officially be an EU member the EU cannot officially act or speak on behalf of the UK in international agreements – such as international fisheries agreements

Alan Hastings FFLs spokesman said “Saying the UK and EU will participate at international negotiations is a way to ensure the UK signs off whatever the EU tells us. We then return home and have to surrender our resources to the common EU pot to be divided out under the same grotesquely unfair shares of the CFP to obey the transition arrangements between us and the EU”

“To give some sort of context as a rough legal comparison think of a husband (the EU) and wife (the UK)”.

“Although they are married (i.e. the transition deal) it is a matter of fact the wife (the UK) is a person/country in her/our own right (a coastal state). The husband (the EU) cannot sign for the wife (the UKs) inheritance (fisheries resources agreed international)”.

“However, as they are married (transition deal) once the inheritance (fisheries resources agreed internationally) are concluded the inheritance (our fish) belongs and is divided between their common household where the EU under the terms of the CFP only gives us half of what should otherwise be solely ours”.

FFL say this is why the government has made this provision and shrouded it in opaque wording.

NOTE
This is why DEFRAs official statement to the press when questioned below goes all fuzzy at the end.

Our proposal makes clear that when the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, we will become an independent coastal state. The Treaties will no longer apply, we will no longer be a Member State, and we will leave the Common Fisheries Policy. 

“Our proposal means that during the implementation period we will sit alongside other Coastal States as equal partners in international annual quota negotiations. 

“We are expecting more detailed discussions on the text with the EU. The details of how this apply will be discussed there.”

Alan Hastings said on DEFRAs statement; “Yes, unequivocally, as a legal matter of fact, when we are an independent coastal state this confers the right to sit at the table and exercise sovereignty over our resources as the statement admits”.

“What the statement then fails to highlight is the government has built a mechanism to facilitate selling us out where we can surrender our waters and resources to the EU as part of the terms of the transition deal where we must obey the CFP thereafter – that is what is key”.

“The disgracefulness of this is amplified because they know and recognise that we will be an independent country but have deliberately contrived and decided to throw all that away to be trapped in the CFP. To sell our resources and fishermen out to the EU again but with just a different legal underpinning”.

“It is nothing short of evil, calculated maliciousness hid behind deliberately opaque wording and a PR exercise – those within the establishment who ore engineering something so heinous need to be called out”.

All fishermen’s representative bodies are aghast at the transition saying it could be used to finish of the UK fleet.  They question why fishing needs to be in a transition at all when the government recognises that we can walk away and be an independent coastal state with full control over all our waters and resources.

They are angry that the government failed to back Michael Gove’s and George Eustice’s calls to not include fishing in a transition and to leave the disastrous CFP entirely on 29th March 2019.

Alan Hastings concluded “We fear that the powers that be have laid the ground work to sacrifice Britain’s fishermen and coastal communities to continued demise trapped in the CFP where we will be another British industry consigned to museum and memory”.