A present from CIB to our MPs

Like all campaign organisations, things changed significantly for the Campaign for an Independent Britain after 23rd June last year. Our target up to this point had been the general public. We produced pamphlets and leaflets aimed at ordinary people which set out the case for independence.

Since the vote to leave the EU, it is our MPs who need to be targeted – to ensure that they deliver the best Brexit deal possible. Obviously, lengthy face-to-face meetings with individual Ministers and Civil Servants is a task for specialists with detailed knowledge of their  particular area, but there is still a place for easy-to-read literature which explains the essentials of a given Brexit topic.

So last week, all MPs were sent a copy of our recent fisheries booklet Seizing the Moment. Written by John Ashworth of Fishing for Leave, it sets out the options for the UK fishing industry after Brexit, explaining which, in the author’s widely-respected opinion, is the best way forward.

The booklet was accompanied by a covering letter written by Rev Philip foster, one of our vice- chairmen, which reads as follows:-

Dear MP,
NEW BRITISH FISHERIES POLICY
When Britain was negotiating to join the EEC, just before completion, they sprang the demand that our waters should become “a common resource” for all EEC states to share. P.M. Edward Heath caved in and
misled Parliament, claiming that he had provided safeguards for British fishermen. The result has been an ecological disaster for our unique marine resource and economic disaster for our decimated fishing
communities.
    The government, in “repatriating” fishing policy, must not just transfer the existing regime to the British statute book, allowing the environmental catastrophe of the unworkable Common Fisheries Policy quota regime to continue.
WHAT IS OURS?
�  Our territorial waters up to 12 miles from the coast.
  Under the London Fishery Convention of 1964 the UK gave fishing rights to France and four other
  countries within our 6-12 mile territorial limit. This can be renounced by giving two years notice. The government has announced it will do this; an excellent start.
�  Our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which stretches for 200 miles from our coast or to the median line when neighbouring countries are nearer than 400 miles from us.
All living marine species within this zone belong to us. (Fishery Limits Act 1976).     Control should be asserted as soon as we leave the EU and no permanent fishing rights should be accorded to any foreign vessels.
UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
The notorious CFP EU quota system, which causes massive amounts of fish to be thrown back dead into the sea, should be scrapped. It has built-in incentives to cheat. Our expert friends in ‘Fishing for Leave’ have studied fishery management systems worldwide and believe that the control of days at sea by trawlers (as used in the Faeroe Islands) is far more practicable. Combined with local ecological controls for the very different fishing grounds in our waters, it can easily be policed with satellite assistance.
  Fishing rights should not be sold as individual property but remain under public control, inalienably for the nation.
    The enclosed booklet is a readable, non-technical distillation of a lifetime’s fishery experience by the author, John Ashworth; more are available on request.
  As Parliament is the steward of this great natural resource, we hope you will find it useful in urging a truly British policy on the government.

 

A small step – the denunciation of the 1964 Fisheries Convention at last!

Within a week of taking up his new post as Secretary of State Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, has finally denounced the London 1964 Fisheries Convention. This is a small and welcome step towards Brexit, but one which should have been done at the same time as Article 50, as both require two years’ notice of termination. It means that unless we get a time extension to the Article 50 process, there will be a 3-month overlap.

The 1964 Convention was an agreement between the UK and some other European countries about fishing rights in each other’s waters. It was disadvantageous to UK fishermen and very beneficial to the French, possibly as a sop to General de Gaulle, who was not at all keen to see us join the European Community, with which we were currently in negotiations with at the time.

There are some grounds for saying it may make little difference as the Convention is vessel-specific and very few, if any, boats mentioned in the 1964 agreement are likely to be commercially active.

Of course, our membership of the EU has superseded it. Michel Barnier tweeted yesterday:-

UK denunciation of London Convention=no change: EU law/Common Fisheries Policy had superseded it. EU 27 interests=my priority for negs

This is a very telling. In one sense, Barnier is correct, as the detail of the Convention was transferred into EU regulation. On Brexit day, however, the regulation ceases to apply, and we revert to previous domestic legislation which, if it had not been denounced today, would have continued the right of access to our 6 to 12 nautical mile limit.

Note again, “EU 27 interests=my priority for negs.” Given that France gained most from the 1964 Convention, in any negotiations for a post-Brexit fishing settlement, you can expect France to demand access rights to fish in UK waters.

So while today’s move has cleared the way for UK control of our waters up to 12 nautical miles from the coast, there is still the question of control of our seas between 12 and 200 nautical miles (or the median point where the sea is less than 400 nautical miles wide). The Great Repeal Bill will repeal the European Communities 1972 Act, but at the same time will repatriate EU law into UK law – in other words, EU legislation will still be on our statute books but will take its authority from Westminster and not Brussels. This means that while Article 50 would take us out of the Common Fisheries Policy, the Great Repeal Bill, unless it excludes fisheries, would more or less take us straight back in again.

The separate Fisheries Bill will counter that, as long as it takes effect at exactly the same time as, or before, the Great Repeal Bill. If there is any overlap, this will result in huge problems of continuity and legal challenges.

As the time ticks away towards 30th March 2019, ministers need to remember the Kent Kirk case. This Danish skipper deliberately fished in UK waters to test the situation when there were uncertainties following the termination of a fisheries agreement without anything being put in its place.

Once we reach the end of the Article 50 period in March 2019, all EU treaties and regulations will cease to apply to the UK, and we revert to our own UK legislation. It is vital to sort out a fisheries policy before then and the timetable is short. Under Article 50, unless there is unanimous agreement among the 27 members to extend the two year period, we have 21 months left to achieve a withdrawal agreement. When you consider all that needs to be done in such a short space of time, it raises the question as to whether this is possible.

The EU is in the driving seat when it comes to determining the terms of withdrawal. The UK can say yes or no and even then, the Council and the European Parliament have a vote. While the EU is obliged by treaty to conclude a deal, it could make life so difficult that the UK either has to submit or say no.

However, circumstances have dealt us a strong hand as far as fisheries is concerned. If there is no fisheries agreement, no EU vessel will be able to fish in our waters. Given the French fishing Industry needs access to UK waters to survive, it will be putting a lot of pressure on the EU’s negotiators to fight hard on its behalf. It is vital that our side does not give in. Gove has thrown down the gauntlet and even today’s action has ruffled a few feathers. He will need to steel himself for a far worse reaction if he is to see this through to the bitter end and reclaim full control out to the 200 nautical mile/median point limit.

(See also this press release from Fishing for Leave)

Negotiating Independence – a letter from our Chairman

The letter below, written by our Chairman, Edward Spalton, was recently published in the Derby Telegraph.

Sir,

Like D.G. Betts (30 June), I am keen to be out of the EU and have been since 1972 when I began to discover the ulterior motives and bad faith by the Europeans and by our own government, surrounding our accession to membership.

Negotiations were nearly complete when the EEC (as it then was) suddenly introduced the Common Fisheries Policy, demanding that our waters should become a “common resource” for all member countries to share. Prime Minister Edward heath knew that there was no legal provision in the Rome Treaty for such a policy but went along with it nonetheless. He also misinformed Parliament that British fishermen’s interests would be protected. The result was ecological catastrophe for our seas and fish stocks, economic catastrophe for our fishermen and a massive financial loss to our country’s balance of payments..

This was one reason why Tony Blair wrote in his 1983 election manifesto “We”ll negotiate a withdrawal from the EEC which has drained our natural resources and destroyed jobs”. What a pity he never kept his word!

It is a complex business to right the wrongs of forty four years, so it will require negotiation which take time. Under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, a two year period is allowed. During that time we are still full participating members but we do not sit on both sides of the table during the withdrawal negotiations. We can hardly be buyer and seller at the same time! That is reasonable enough.

Paragraph 4 of Article 50 states “….the member of the European Council or of the Council (of Ministers) representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the Council in the decision concerning it…” That is why our representatives are excluded those meetings – but only from those meetings.

For everything else, we continue full members until (Paragraph 2) “The treaties shall cease to apply from the date of the entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification, unless the European Council in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period”.

Almost uniquely this is one EU document which is both short and clear – but the negotiations to get the right deal will be very complex indeed.

Yours faithfully,

 

Edward Spalton

 

Fishing for Leave Threatens Another Flotilla if Establishment Continues to Prevaricate

Contact: Alan Hastings, [email protected], 07827 399 408

 

A year ago the Fishing for Leave Flotilla proceeded up the Thames to the heart of our capital with a flotilla of 30 vessels.

To take our cry for a better future to the heart of government as the most prominent demonstration of the Brexit campaign – if the government does not start to deliver or backslides on Brexit we’ll be back!

The vessels represented all sizes, sectors and all areas, making a tremendous effort and sacrifice and coming together as never before with dignity to answer their country’s call when others shamefully would not.  Some suggested it was the difference in the vote.

The SFF and NFFO that purport to represent the industry continued their ambivalence towards British withdrawal and hid behind the guise of ‘neutrality’ despite 90% of their members crying to escape the EU.

The sight of all types and sizes of vessels from all areas of the country proceeding through an icon of Britain at Tower Bridge made many hearts swell with pride and eyes fill with tears.

Had it not been for Fishing for Leave there would have been no voice for the most pro-Brexit industry. FFL has continued unabated since, representing our industry vociferously in the corridors of power.

HOWEVER, we still have our grave concerns on the commitment of the political establishment to Brexit. The ridiculous and unnecessary election and its result has inflamed calls to remain and ignore the wishes of the British people and the rhetoric is still not being matched by results with continued prevarication on the way forward.

FFL  have challenged and brought the issues below to the fore but so far, all we have had is words not action –

  • The London Fisheries Convention 1964 – there is a manifesto commitment but the 2 years notice that should have been given to concur with Article 50 has still not been served and there is now a danger of an overlap of continued EU access to UK waters on withdrawal.
  • The Great Repeal Bill proposes to adopt all EU law including the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy into UK law. If we are leaving the CFP, why run the risk of adopting it? Despite highlighting that adopting EU law would bind Britain to them under international treaty law the government ploughs ahead to a diplomatic disaster regardless.
  •  The deliberately ambiguous wording of the Conservative manifesto which means the UK would only “exercise sovereign control” waters only to 12 miles not the full 200 or midline limit.

Fishing will be one of the acid tests of the success of Brexit. FFL will continue to go forward and hope that the election leads to a fulfilment not a cop-out. Brexit and the will of the people cannot be backslid on post-election.

It is disconcerting the political establishment is now at fever pitch for “soft”/No Brexit. We are in perilous territory and after a discussion FFL are considering further demonstrations to ensure the politicians fulfil the will of our industry and country.

We will take whatever action necessary. Should there be a backsliding, we’ll be back up the Thames to bring London to a halt!

The rise and possible demise of the SNP

Although the SNP came into being in 1934, it only achieved a modest degree of success until the two 1974 elections, when it grew from one parliamentary seat to seven and then eleven, including several seats in the North East of Scotland. In the next general election that area of Scotland went blue again and remained a Conservative stronghold until the 1987 election when the SNP took the Moray and Banff seats which it held for the next 30 years – often referred to as the Alex Salmond period.

The SNP unquestionably hit a peak in 2015, when it won all but three seats in Scotland. Two years later, however, the party lost two seats in the Moray Firth area while the Tories also took the prize scalp of Alex Salmond in the neighbouring seat of  Gordon.

At the start of Salmond’s parliamentary career he fully supported the fishing communities, just as those communities supported the SNP, both financially and with their votes.

For instance, here is an extract from Hansard where Alex Salmond brought in a private members Bill on Fisheries Jurisdiction:-

(756HC Deb 02 March 2004 vol 418 cc756-8)

Mr Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union; to amend the Fisheries Limits Act 1976; to make provision about the exercise of functions under that Act by Scottish Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Ministers and the Secretary of State; to provide that that Act shall have effect regardless of the provisions of the European Communities Act 1972; to define Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish waters; and for connected purposes. The Bill is supported by hon. Members of all eight political parties that are represented in the Chamber, which is unusual for a politically controversial measure, and, more important, by every fishing organisation in the country, both offshore and onshore.

And as Scottish First Minister, he later said on 29th. May 2008, when answering a question from Karen Gillan:-

“No one seriously believes that the common fisheries policy has brought benefits to Scottish fishermen or fish stocks. We are committed to withdrawing from that damaging policy.”

However, by 2015, the SNP position had become more ambivalent.  In a Parliamentary debate on 10th September 2015, Sheryll Murray, the MP   for Cornwall South East, said:-

“I notice that there are some hon. Members from the Scottish National party present. If one of them makes a speech, perhaps they will clarify their policy, which I am confused about. In 2003 the SNP MEP Ian Hudghton said that equal access to a common resource was fundamental to the common fisheries policy, and that no one could change it. Yet I remember that in the early days of my involvement in fisheries policy Alex Salmond, who was then the Member for Banff and Buchan, promoted a private Member’s Bill to restore national control”.

The confusion continues to this day.  The SNP 2017 manifesto expressed a desire to re-join the EU while at the same time saying,

“We will continue, in all circumstances, to demand the scrapping or fundamental reform of the Common Fisheries Policy”

This statement is nonsense. You cannot re-join the EU if you advocate such a policy. Indeed, you would have thought that the SNP would have learned a lesson from the earlier Conservative demise in Scotland – you must not betray your core supporters. Yet this is exactly what they have done and the fishing communities have taken their vengeance. Salmond appears to think he will be back, but he will have to move well away from the coast. The Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has plenty of evidence to use against him if he tries to make a comeback. Anyone can access the Parliamentary documents of Hansard to read his statements.

On polling day Salmond looked grim and deservedly so. He needs to consider why he lost his seat.  For all those years he supported the fishermen, but then power went to his head to such an extent he stopped visiting his fishing supporters. Democracy has worked, but the Conservatives must take note too about what has happened. If they mess up the post-Brexit fishing policy, the Scottish Conservative bandwagon will quickly grind to a halt.

It is ironic that the talk over the past year or so has been about Scottish independence, and separation, but thanks in no small measure to the fishing communities, it is Scotland that has kept Mrs. May in a position to continue as Prime Minister of the UK.

Fishing the first Brexit bright spot as confusion reigns

Fishing photo

Are we going to leave the Single Market or not? And what about the EU’s customs union? – a subject that never cropped up in the referendum debate last year. Do some politicians even know the difference between the two?

At the moment, we are seeing a great deal of confusion about the future direction of Brexit and for those of us outside Mrs May’s new cabinet, what we are reading in the media is leaving us none the wiser. the quality of press reporting has reached an all-time low, with uninformed speculation given free rein and undue weight placed on off-the-cuff comments.

Take, for instance, headline statements that Emmanuel Macron, France’s new President claimed that “Brexit could be reversed.” What he actually said was “Of course the door remains open, always open until talks come to the end. But it was a sovereign decision taken by the people to come out of the EU.” In other words, there remains a theoretical possibility that the UK government might change its mind, but no more than that.  Given the shock of last week’s General Election result, it is hard to see the any rowing back on Brexit given that the consequences for the Conservatives would be the worst crisis since 1846.

The terms “hard” and “soft” Brexit have been bandied about with very few people knowing what they actually mean.  By and large, the terms relate to a future trading arrangement with “hard” meaning leaving the Single Market (or perhaps the Customs Union, or maybe both??) and “soft” means remaining in one or both. But what about criminal justice or foreign policy? There are “hard and “soft” issues here, which few in the media are picking up.

In all this muddle, one thing is clear. From what we could discern of Mrs May’s Brexit agenda, it contained some worrying and unsatisfactory features, including too close a link with the EU’s military plans and an ongoing commitment to remain party to the European Arrest Warrant. The loss of her majority means that she cannot force through her plans for Brexit if they are widely seen as flawed. Indeed, it is possible that we could end up with a better Brexit deal, given that pressure groups and their supporters on the Tory back benches will have a lot more leverage than if we had ended up with a thumping Conservative majority.

In one particular policy area, fishing, we are already seeing evidence of this. Scotland was the one piece of good news for the Conservatives in an otherwise dismal result and several of the seats they won from the SNP include fishing communities. Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, campaigned strongly on the fisheries issue and has apparently spoken to Theresa May, insisting that the UK must leave the Common Fisheries Policy and manage its own waters right up to the 200 Nautical Mile/Median Point limit.

Given that Michael Gove, who has recently been appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs , is the son of a man who worked in the fishing industry, there is every reason for being hopeful that the sensible post-Brexit fishing policy proposed by Fishing for Leave has a greater chance of being implemented.

So, amidst the current confusion, we are perhaps seeing the first bright light. As the dust settles, hopefully others will follow