The Government will fail the first Brexit test by not scrapping the London Convention

Release: Immediate

 

Words: 382

Contact: Alan Hastings – 07827 399 408

Fishing for Leave recently highlighted the immediate need for the government to denounce the London Convention.

DexEU and DEFRA’s response that “in regard to historical access to waters, no decisions have yet been taken on the UK’s position” and that “we endeavour to reach an agreement…. by the time the two year Article 50 process has concluded”  is pitiful and suggests they have no intention of acting.

As lovely as it was to hear the government reiterate its position of caring for our fishing and coastal communities their response scarcely backs this rhetoric.

The London Convention must be denounced now to secure all access to our waters and obtain the strongest possible diplomatic hand.

This Convention gives historic rights for European vessels to fish in UK waters but only between 6 and 12 nautical miles from our shores.

Failing to scrap this Convention would allow the EU ‘back door’ access to this narrow strip as the convention will still apply to the UK upon withdrawal.

As the Convention requires two years notice it must be denounced immediately, and before Article 50 is triggered, to avoid an overlap allowing EU access to UK waters.

For 8 months there has only been rhetoric and no results. The government is well aware of this issue and their failure to act suggests they have no intention of securing our rich fishing waters.

Why are they not fully committed to securing this strong hand by controlling all access?

If the government does not act immediately on this easy and simple test of Brexit then it evidently has no intention of making a serious stand. The government and MP’s are about to fail this first test on Brexit.

It would show the opportunity of automatic repatriation of an industry, that could double to be worth approximately £6.3bn annually, is to be betrayed a second time. Fisheries will symbolise whether we’ve “taken back control of our borders” and will therefore be the “acid test” of Brexit.

The government must serve notice to denounce this Convention immediately. To demonstrate that it really does intend to repatriate and safeguard the nation’s greatest renewable resource.

If it does not then it looks like we’re going to have a backslide and betrayal of Brexit and that the government is all mouth and no trousers.

There is still time to lobby your MP to act on this – if you want to see our fishing grounds secured please send the letter in this link to them – http://www.ffl.org.uk/letter-to-mp/

Would Scotland REALLY want to rejoin the EU after Brexit?

Nicola Sturgeon is currently attempting to create the momentum for a second Scottish independence referendum  – alias “Indyref 2”. The 2014 referendum was described at the time as a “once in a generation” but Sturgeon said last Monday that because the UK voted to leave the EU but Scotland did not, there has been a “change in material circumstances” since 2014 that justifies a second vote. She wants to give Scottish voters the option “to follow the U.K. to a hard Brexit — or to become an independent country.”

“Scotland’s future will be decided not just by me, the Scottish government or the (Scottish National Party),” she said. “It will be decided by the people of Scotland. It will be Scotland’s choice. And I trust the people to make that choice.”

Some recent reports claim that the SNP’s plan for an independent Scotland now involve gaining access to the Single Market by rejoining EFTA rather than trying to rejoin the EU. No doubt we will know more after the party’s forthcoming spring conference this weekend, but given the activities of malign individuals like Tony Blair south of the Border,  it is hard to believe that all Scots – and the SNP leadership in particular – have thrown in the towel as far as membership of the EU is concerned.

Perhaps, however, reality is beginning to dawn on at least some pro-remain Scots that rejoining the EU would be on massively disadvantageous terms because the country would not benefit from the opt-outs which successive British Prime Ministers the UK fought for and which the whole UK currently enjoys.

Were Scotland to overcome concerns in Madrid, which is worried about the Catalan separatist movement, as a new state joining the EU, this would be its fate:-

(a) It would have to adopt  the euro currency  – although this can be deferred somewhat.
Furthermore, what currency would a newly independent Scotland use between leaving the UK and joining the EU? Would it use the euro unofficially like ( say) Montenegro?

What is more, to join the Eurozone,  Scotland’s top- heavy public sector would have to be pruned as vigorously as in the “club Med” countries like Greece where many unemployed people no longer have access to the NHS and long-term unemployed households are on income of only 8.40 euros per day

(b) Scotland would not have the derogations which the UK presently enjoys. For instance, VAT would have to be added to food, children’s clothes, books and house sales. The minimum rate would be 5 per cent. But much, much more would be required to make good the deficit left by the withdrawal of subsidies from England

(c) If there were a strong possibility of a yes vote, financial institutions, pension funds, mutual organisations,  charities and other investors with members and clients in England would have a duty of care to protect them from currency risks, possible exchange restrictions and seizure of money from bank accounts (as happened in Cyprus), as an independent government would quickly become financially desperate. This would undermine the position of the considerable Scottish financial,sector.

(d) Scottish energy policy has been based on selling overpriced “renewable” electricity to England and buying cheap, conventionally produced electricity in the other direction when the wind doesn’t blow.
With the discrediting of the global warming myth, Independence would give England an excellent opportunity to discontinue the arrangement.

(e) The unkindest cut of all. There are already excellent English and Welsh whisky brands which could quickly be expanded and much reduce England’s demand for Scotch whisky.

(f) The much smaller area of Scottish territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (Compared with those of the UK as a whole) would be shared among an unchanged number of EU trawlers, barred from English waters by Brexit.

All in all, the prospects for Scotland if it tries to re-join the EU do look bleak.  It is hard to say how widely these negative impacts are known among the Scottish population – or indeed, by Scotland’s politicians. As mentioned above, it is possible that the SNP’s recent talk of looking at EFTA rather than EU membership may be due to their recognition of  harsh reality of these disadvantages.

However, in the event of any attempt to whip up support for re-joining the EU by the SNP or anyone else, we believe the points set out above need to be widely publicised throughout Scotland. For anyone wishing to start the ball rolling, this helpful website gives a list of all Scottish newspapers, great and small.

Our Chairman demolishes a supporter of the Common Fisheries Policy

Readers of local papers across the country need to keep an eye open for the name C.N. Westerman. This ever-industrious gentlemen bombards local papers across the country with letters in support of the European Union. Indeed, he is so besotted with the EU that he even praises the Common Fishery Policy – one of the most catastrophically badly managed projects of the EU. Even keen Europhiles usually recognise that. The letter below appeared in the Derby Telegraph of 7th March 2017. No doubt he has sent the same letter to other papers. Informed refutation of this nonsense is required

“BREXIT supporters have complained that they are all regarded as ignorant  and stupid by EU Remoaners but that is not correct. People like Michael Gove are quite clever but very untrustworthy. We suspect their motives.

The matter is most openly displayed by those voters of the UK fishing ports who voted to come out of the EU and declared their reasoning that

“it does not suit us”.

Their only motive is to continue to do what they want to do.  We never doubted the sincerity of their short-sighted self interest. But we doubt their wish to protect the oceans for later generations. And the rest of us lose all the industrial EU advantages for the wrong price of a fish supper. Any thought that our oceans, upon which our grandchildren must depend, need to be protected from exploitation, from thoughtless commercial fishing by UK businesses and also by the 192 other nations, makes no impact on their minds. No one nation can save the oceans. It is a stupid thing to say, not just because the speaker is stupid but because he is not honest.

Every child at school should be able to see that the EU offers the best hope for our planet by coaching other nations to grasp the vision of “shared responsibility- for oceans and for air pollution, for a balanced ecology  and the continuation of animal species, for humans being able to live without epidemics and without warfare. It is only after they have left school that the adults’ self-interest comes to endanger their own grandchildren.”

I  responded as below. It is not possible to refute all his points in a single letter of the size likely to be acceptable to a newspaper. (around 250 -350 words)  I ask those with knowledge of fishery matters to respond with other points to  [email protected] and wherever else they see this letter – or one like it- published.

 7th March 2017

 Sir,

Of all the EU’s activities the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) must rank as the most damaging for the marine environment and economically disastrous for British people.

 In 1972,  just as Britain’s negotiations to join the EEC were nearly complete, the European Commission announced out of the blue that there was going to be a Common Fisheries Policy. This meant that Britain’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of waters up to 200 miles away from our shores, or to the median line where countries are nearer, must become a “common resource” for all European countries to fish.

 It was an official secret at the time, but Edward Heath knew that the EEC treaties provided no legal basis for such a policy. It was a try-on. But, having counted up the number of fishermen and constituencies affected, he decided they could be sacrificed. Surely one of the nastiest pieces of premeditated treachery to his own people by any Prime Minister.

 Today I received the following account by a friend whose lifelong career has been designing equipment for trawlers. He writes “On 28 January a trawler was fishing in the English Channel for haddock and whiting…..Good marks had shown up on the sounder and the skipper decided to haul early. He was delighted to see the net bursting at the seams……The delight turned to horror as the first fish on deck were not whiting and haddock but Sea Bass of 2 – 3kg size. As he had no quota for that species, all had to be thrown back dead into the sea. Out of an estimate of 500 boxes, there were 6 boxes of whiting and haddock….”

 So around 17 tonnes of dead Sea Bass polluted the sea. That week the prices were good and the overall value would have been around £175,000, if they could have been landed.

 Not only does the Common Fisheries Policy cause this grotesque abomination but around 60% of the fish caught in our waters go to foreign trawlers. Often they are landed on the mainland of Europe, processed, packed and shipped back to us at much higher prices.

Yet C.N.Westerman thinks this is marvellous because the EU does it. It is up to every Member of Parliament to right this historic wrong.

 Yours faithfully,

 Edward Spalton

A template letter for writing to your MP about fishing

Britain’s Maritime Resources & the Great Repeal Bill

You may like to use all or part of our Chairman’s letter to his MP as a template if you wish to write to your own MP expressing your concern that the UK does not end up with a Common Fisheries Policy Mark 2 and thus betray our fishermen a second time. We also need to renounce the 1964 London Convention, so that other countries do not acquire rights to fish in our waters. 

Dear……           

I write as a constituent as well as on behalf of concerned members of CIB and friends in the fishing industry. The surrender of our seas as a “common resource” to the EU was a particularly shameful act, as HMG was fully aware that the then EEC had no legal basis for the Common Fisheries Policy which it introduced into our negotiations to join at the last minute. There is now opportunity for a root and branch rectification of this disastrous decision.

* By international law all living marine species within the  200 nautical mile/median line zone belongs to the coastal state.

* A British Act of Parliament (Fishery Limits 1976 Act) established our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of  200 nautical miles/median from our coast.

* Under the  term of the European Communities Act 1972, this solely national resource was shared with every other EU member state.

* Our friends in the fishing industry advise us of the following figures.

UK catches in UK waters amount to 461,047 tonnes value  £593,600,000

UK catches in EU waters  amount to   88,126 tonnes value  £102,136,000

EU  catches in UK waters amount to  674,601 tonnes value £711,224,000

EU catches in  EU waters  amount to 568,575  tonnes value £777,081,000

* Repealing the ECA 1972 and invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty reverts control of the British EEZ from Brussels to Westminster Control, returning to the Fishery Limits Act 1976 and the London Fishery Convention of 1964.

* In the London Fishery Convention of 1964, the UK gave mainly  to France and four other countries rights to fish within our 6 -12 mile territorial limit zone. From 1986 the UK can renounce this agreement by giving two years notice. We urge that this should be done at the same time as invoking Article 50, so there is no overlap time.

* From the Brexit White Paper

To provide legal certainty over our exit from the EU, we will introduce the Great Repeal Bill to remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and convert  the “acquis”- the body of existing EU law into domestic law. This means that, wherever practical and appropriate, the same rules and laws will apply on the day after we leave the EU as they did before.

* The fisheries acquis includes the main fisheries regulation 1380/2013, which establishes who  catches what, where and how much in UK waters. So the figures quoted above would become British Fishing Policy.

* It seems incredible that HMG appears to have decided to run a policy based on regulation 1380/2013 so that EU vessels will continue to plunder 59% of the British people’s resource.

* HMG has made much of not being “half in and half out” of the EU and characterised the EEA/EFTA as that sort of arrangement. Yet Norway and Iceland, which are in EEA/EFTA, exercise whole and sole control over their own national fisheries. As with agriculture, they make their own arrangements.

* We urge that the UK’s arrangements should be no less sovereign over our own EEZ and territorial waters.

* We also believe that the whole of the existing CFP quota regime is unfit for purpose and should be scrapped.  Our expert colleagues in Fishing for Leave have prepared proposals for  control by permitted days at sea, as currently used in the Faeroe Islands. This  is far more practicable and removes the incentive to cheat. It can provide a more effective system with local ecological controls for the very different fishing grounds in our waters. Fishing rights should not be individual  property but remain under public control, inalienably for the nation.

* We also urge that immediate preparations should be made for an adequate force of Royal Navy Fisheries Protection Vessels, which could also provide a platform for HM Customs and Excise and Immigration Control purposes.

Yours sincerely,

Photo by Oldmaison

Time to call MEPs’ bluff

 

Last week, an article in the Guardian painted a bleak picture of the prospects for the UK fishing industry after Brexit:- “The hopes of British fishermen that the UK can win its “waters back” after Brexit are expected to be dashed by the European parliament, despite the campaign promises of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, a leaked EU document reveals.

MEPs have drafted seven provisions to be included in Britain’s “exit agreement”, including the stipulation that there will be “no increase to the UK’s share of fishing opportunities for jointly fished stocks [maintaining the existing quota distribution in UK and EU waters]”.

The document, obtained by the Guardian, adds that in order for the UK and EU to keep to commitments on sustainable fishing – contained within the United Nations stocks agreement – “it is difficult to see any alternative to the continued application of the common fisheries policy”

It is time for those MEPs to read Article 50, which they as a Parliament, and each EU member state have twice endorsed. While it is correct that where you have two nations’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) that adjoin one another you will have a straddling stock and the percentage share-out is agreed on the basis of the total allowable catch within each EEZ, it is totally wrong is to suggest to any degree that the share allocated to the British EEZ has to be shared out between the EU and the UK as at present.

Section 3 of Article 50 states “The treaties shall cease to apply to the state in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement, or failing that, two years after the notification Or failing that, if there is no agreement,  the treaties – including regulations – shall cease to apply two years after notice has been given.”

Going back to section 2 of Article 50, it says  “the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with the state”. It does not say that the leaving Nation has to negotiate.

Of course the MEPs are going to try it on. They don’t want to lose out taking a British resource for free, as they have been doing for over 40 years. Taking the phrase “the Union shall negotiate”, they want things to remain as they are  – in other words, as far as the UK is concerned, a shadow CFP. However, the main straddling stocks are located in the North Sea and English Channel, where our EEZ in that area is larger than the EU one. This implies that the EU should follow our policy, not that we should follow theirs – i. e, maintain the CFP.

The MEPs stress that we must abide by International law – the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS3).  Actually, we would agree with this as sections 55 to 75 clearly lay out the guidelines for operating an EEZ. At one second past the two-year period stipulated under Article 50, competency and control reverts to Westminster. We return to the Fishery Limits 1976 Act and its amendments, which accepts the guidelines of UNCLOS3. This states that the marine resources within the British EEZ belongs to the British people. The EU and its MEPs in particular have no say in the management of our own EEZ post-Brexit.

To repeat, international law bestows the responsibility of the British EEZ of 200 nautical mile/median line zone solely onto the UK Government.

In order to prevent an overnight collapse of EU fleets by excluding them totally from day one from our waters, under UNCLOS3 Section 62,  we can make a generous offer in the negotiations. We could allow EU vessels a limited right to fish in UK waters on a decreasing transitional basis – to fish the overcapacity of our resource until we build up our own fleet.

So whatever the Guardian‘s source may say, while the MEPs can huff and puff as much as they wish, there is nothing they can do about it. The only way they can achieve their desire would be if a weak UK government capitulates and creates a British fishing policy based on the CFP for the British EEZ. In other words, giving the EU what they want and repeating Edward Heath’s betrayal of our fishermen. They must not cave in to pressure and deny our coastal communities this lifeline after over four decades of EU-instigated decline

The London Convention and the future for UK fisheries

Time is not on our side. The acid test of whether ”Brexit means Brexit” is Fisheries. While there is no doubt that competency will return from Brussels back to Westminster when we leave, there is a real danger that the Government will run a parallel CFP in everything but name, continuing to give away 59% of the British living marine resource – in other words, the EU continuing to take 674,601 tons of fish out of our waters, at raw prices of £711,224,000.
 
The other important issue which needs to be considered is the 1964 London Convention. On Brexit day, when the EU regulations cease to apply, the London Convention will regain its force unless we act quickly. It is important to note that this is British legislation and nothing to do with the EU, apart from it being a sop to the French – a forlorn hope that it would change General De Gaulle’s mind in allowing Britain to join the then EEC. It granted five EU member substantial fishing rights within our 6 to 12 nautical mile zone, although France was by far the main beneficiary.
 
Under the terms of the Convention, after 1986, we can denounce the agreement by giving two years notice, so we need to do so at the same time as invoking article 50, as that is highly likely to be also a two year period. It would be ridiculous to find ourselves stuck with other Nations’ fishing vessels still able to fish in this narrow, but crucial inshore sector, even if only for a short period.
The Government is fully aware of this situation, but if they do nothing and allow these rights to continue, the five nations could possibly build up continuity rights, making it difficult to remove at a later date. This is as important as avoiding a shadow CFP to cover the 12 to 200 nautical mile zone. If the government fails on both these counts – an there are concerns that it might do without pressure being applied – we will face a repeat of the disaster of 1973, with the British people’s resource sacrificed a second time , increasing the decline within our coastal communities.
 
Not only that but once we appreciate that the boundary of the UK is the outer edge of our 200 nautical mile fishing zone. or median line and not, as is widely believed, the land boundary, we would effectively be losing three quarters of the UK. Given the government’s determination to control immigration – i.e., who sets foot on our land – it would be totally illogical to deny ourselves the right to control which fishing vessels may access our waters.
 
What is more, a failure to denounce the London Agreement or to replace the CFP with something totally different would open a legal minefield. The original London Agreement was vessel-specific and it is highly unlikely that any fishing boat covered by it is still in commercial use fifty years later, but any attempt to dismiss it as irrelevant for this reason would unquestionably be challenged in court. The fisheries regulation 1380/2013 is full of references to “union waters” and other terminology which assumes an EU of 28 countries including the UK, which will not be the case on Brexit day. So many changes would be needed to “repatriate” this regulation that it makes no sense to do so. We have time during the Article 50 period to devise something much simpler and better, based on the Faroese system and allowing only limited access to our waters for vessels of other EU member states using UNCLOS 3 as our guidelines here.     
 
There is no escaping the issue. On Brexit day, the UK – on other words, every single individual Westminster MP, is responsible under Intentional Law, for our managing our waters right up to the 200 nautical mile/median line limit. If they decide to give it away again, the responsibility for doing so, lies totally on their shoulders.
 
There is still everything to play for, but the subject of fishing will set the tone of Brexit. After Article 50 – and hopefully at the same time, the denouncing of  the London Convention – the next stage will be the scrutiny of the Great Repeal Bill in May to see what alterations they have done to the acquis coming into domestic legislation. Hopefully fisheries will be exempt, but to date the situation is not looking good.