The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 3:- fisheries shows the need for exemptions

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was designed to ensure that life continues as normal the day we leave the EU.  In an earlier post, we explained the rationale behind this bill. While Labour in particular is concerned about the “repatriated” legislation being tweaked for political ends, a far more serious problem concerns legislation which will need tweaking because of the new status of the UK as an independent sovereign nation outside the EU. Indeed, the degree of tweaking required for some legislation which does not concern merely domestic issues is so great that we believe that it is best that there should be exemptions included in the Great Repeal Bill – in other words, replacement legislation should come into force on Brexit day and the regulation, decision or directive  in question should not be put onto the statute books at all.

Regulation 1380/2013 is the main piece of EU legislation which governs the Common Fisheries Policy. Leaving the EU will free us from this iniquitous, environmentally damaging piece of legislation which has wrought havoc to our fishing industry.  All we have to do is exempt this one single Regulation from the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and our fishermen will be freed from control by Brussels. Even if no agreement on fishing is signed by Brexit day, this would be better than the current set-up. We would find ourselves excluded from EU waters, but the exclusion of EU vessels from our Exclusive Economic Zone (up to 200 nautical miles from the shoreline, or the median point where the sea is less than 400 nautical miles wide) would be more than a compensation.

In other words, unlike customs arrangements, trade in goods and services or mutual recognition of standards, fisheries is one area where we really don’t have to worry if there is no agreement with the EU by 29th March 2019. We would revert to UN guidelines which would allow us to manage our own waters.

So the current plans by the government to include Regulation 1380/2013 make no sense whatsoever – all the more when analysis of the actual document shows that a massive re-write would be needed before it could be incorporated into UK law or else a tremendous muddle would ensue. You only have to go as far as paragraph (2) on the first page before encountering the terms “Union waters” and “Union fishing vessels.” At the moment, these terms refer to the boats and EEZs of all EU28 countries – at least, all those which have a coastline and therefore a maritime fishing industry. On Brexit day, the term will mean something different as phrase containing the word “Union” will refer to EU27 – in other words, not the UK.

Read on to paragraphs (3) and (4) on the same page and they talk about the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy. Unless the government wants us to be in the CFP even though we will be out of the EU, these two paragraphs can be struck through as irrelevant.

Paragraph (5) begins by mentioning “the Union”. Well, we happen to be a signatory to the same UN agreement, so perhaps our Civil Servants can just cross this out and put in “the UK” instead. Sadly, it’s not that simple. Read on a few lines and you come across a reference to a decision by the EU Council. That doesn’t apply to us any more so that needs to be changed.

Given the document is 40 pages long, I won’t bore you with going through the other pages in detail, but the absurdity of repatriating this Regulation must already be apparent. Every reference to “union”, “member states” “Commission” and so on will need alteration. Why bother with a piece of legislation which is so flawed? Scroll through it in its entirety and there are numerous references to quotas. UK fishermen do not want a quota system on independence. Our booklet Seizing the Moment,written by John Ashworth of Fishing for Leave proposes a “days-at-sea” basis, modelled on Faeroese practise, which is far better than any quota system for preventing discards, while at the same time enables a much better management of the environment.

Three further objections to the incorporation of this Regulation into the EU (Withdrawal) Bill should, however, be mentioned. Firstly, the final 12 pages comprise an annex listing the access to coastal waters by different member states. This obviously includes the UK’s territorial waters which the Government indicated it intended to return to UK control by denouncing the 1964 London Convention.  If these pages are included, then the good done by doing this is essentially undone and the government would have broken a promise.

Secondly, this Regulation is the latest of a series of regulations enshrining the UK’s 10-year derogration restricting access to the waters up to 12 nautical miles from the shore, which currently expires on 31st December 2022. If the Regulation is included in UK law featuring any wording implying that restricting access to any part of the waters around the UK is subject to agreement with Brussels, then we have in effect granted the EU a right to continue dictating who may or may not fish in our waters. This is unacceptable.

Finally, if anything resembling Regulation 1380/2013 ends up on the UK statute books after Brexit, even if it has been heavily amended, it will be scrutinised in minute detail by, among others, the French, who will seek to find any opportunity they can to take us to an international court and challenge our decision to repatriate our fishing policy.  Given that so much of this document needs to be deleted or amended to make any sense and that there is plenty of scope for ambiguity creeping in, the threat of a legal challenge adds still further to the reasons for saying that excluding it from the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in its entirety is the only sensible approach to take. Fishing for Leave has the expertise to devise a fishing policy in 18 months – one which will revitalise our coastal communities after years of decline. If even a heavily amended version of this Regulation finds its way onto the UK statute books, it will not be truly Brexit for an industry that has campaigned so long for the return of fisheries to UK control. Given the appalling way in which previous Conservative governments have betrayed our fishermen, this present administration must not be allowed to bungle this great opportunity to right an historic wrong. Thankfully, one Conservative MP has already flagged up the potential problems a bungled fisheries Brexit would cause. We can but hope his colleagues will take heed.

 

Conservative Manifesto – PM May Fail on Fishing

Conservatives Must Exorcise the Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing

Press release from Fishing for Leave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIKE HOOKEM

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

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

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

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

Fisheries: Oral questions following the Prime Minister’s statement

Following on from Mrs May’s announcement last week that Article 50 had finally been triggered, it was encouraging to note how many oral and written questions on the subject of fisheries were asked. Equally encouraging were the answers from the Prime Minister. We are still some way off from any definitive statement about future fisheries policies, but there seems to be a growing recognition of the problems that would ensue by transposing fisheries Regulation 1380/2013 onto the UK statute books.   Here are the questions and answers in full, with my observations and comments in italics:-

 ORAL QUESTIONS

(1) Mr Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con)

May I thank my right hon. Friend for and congratulate her on resolutely sticking to her promise to the British people to trigger article 50 before the end of March? There will be celebrations all around the country, nowhere more so than in our remote coastal communities, where the health and wealth of our fishing grounds has been trashed by the common fisheries policy. To re-establish fully our national control of the full exclusive economic zone, we will have to abrogate our membership of the 1964 London convention on fisheries, which requires two years’ notice. Does my right hon. Friend intend to trigger that soon?

The Prime Minister

I know that my right hon. Friend has always had a particular interest in the impact of the common fisheries policy, and he has looked at that issue very carefully. We are looking very carefully at the London fisheries convention and at what action needs to be taken. He is right that this would require two years, but we of course expect to conclude the deal with the European Union within two years and there will then, as I have indicated, be an implementation period beyond that particular time. We hope to be able to say something about the London fisheries convention soon

(At least we have confirmation that they know all about London convention – JA)

(2) Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab)

On what is a genuinely historic day for our country, may I pay tribute to the Prime Minister and to the Brexit Ministers for their determination and dedication in getting to this stage today to implement the will of the British people? Does she agree that one area on which we should be able to move forward very quickly in negotiations is getting back control of our fishing grounds?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), the former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, mentioned the London fisheries convention. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking at this issue and we hope to be able to say something soon. As we look at the whole raft of negotiations, we will be looking at policies that affect not just trade in goods and services, but agriculture and fisheries here in the United Kingdom, and security and crime. We will be looking particularly at the London fisheries convention in due course

(Further confirmation that Fisheries are being looked into)

(3) Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)

For those of us who campaigned and voted for Brexit not just last year, but in 1975 this is a great day and one for celebration. Some 70% of my Cleethorpes constituents and of those in neighbouring Grimsby voted for Brexit last June, partly as a result of continuing anger and resentment at the sell-out of the fishing industry in the original negotiations. The Prime Minister has already reassured me that the fishing industry will be looked after, but the associated seafood industry is very much dependent on the fishing industry. I have already met industry leaders in my constituency who see both opportunities and concerns, so will she reassure me that the seafood processing industry will be a key part of the negotiations?

The Prime Minister

I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that we want to ensure not only that we get a good future for our fishing industry, but that those parts of industry that rely on fishing will also have a good future here in the UK. We will be taking that into account.

(This looks as if they are keen to address the concerns of fishermen, but do they fully understand the pitfalls?)

(4) Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con)

I welcome the Prime Minister’s clear commitment to a positive, constructive and respectful approach to the negotiations that lie ahead. May I press her further on behalf of the fishing community in my constituency and around the United Kingdom? She will know that in the past these people have been badly let down during negotiations, so ​will she give an equally clear commitment that the fishing community will receive a sufficiently high priority during the negotiations ahead?

The Prime Minister

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that we are very conscious of the needs of the fishing industry. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been talking to the fishing industry. The Secretary of State and others have been looking carefully at the arrangements that will need to be put in place in the interests of the fishing industry, and that will be an important part of our considerations in future.

(I would love to know exactly who within the fishing industry they  have been talking to!)

WRITTEN QUSTIONS

(1) Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which EU fishery regulations will be transferred to domestic legislation through the Great Repeal Bill.

George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are currently analysing all EU fisheries legislation. No decision has yet been made on the extent to which the EU legislation governing the Common Fisheries Policy will be incorporated into domestic law.

The Government remains fully committed to controlling and managing UK waters after we leave the EU in accordance with our rights and obligations under international law.

We are considering the issue of the London Fisheries Convention carefully to ensure we have full control of UK waters after we leave the EU and, as the Prime Minister said on 29th March 2017, we hope to be able to say something about it soon

(2) Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

To ask Her Majesty’s Government under what arrangements vessels of other EU member states fish in UK waters between the six and 12 nautical mile limits; and by what process those arrangements could be terminated.

 Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Under Article 5 (2) of Council Regulation 1380/2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, and the 1964 London Fisheries Convention, vessels from Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, Denmark and the Republic of Ireland have access to fish in the UK’s six to twelve nautical mile zone.

In order to withdraw from the London Convention signatories must give two years notice

(3) Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

To ask Her Majesty’s Government under what arrangements vessels of other EU member states fish in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone between the 12 and 200 nautical mile limits; and by what process those arrangements could be terminated.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy regime vessels from EU Member States have access to fisheries in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between the 12 and 200 nautical mile limit. When it leaves the EU, the UK will control access to fisheries in its EEZ and will manage its waters in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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/

Fisheries part 7- Historic rights

Thanks to our membership of the European Union, there are now no “British waters”. Whereas independent countries have control of an area which stretches out 200 nautical miles from the low water shore line (or to the median point when the distance between two countries is less than 400 nautical miles), from 1973 onwards, we surrendered the right to have any national waters at all, so the waters round our coast are EU waters and will be so until we regain our independence.

Supporters of the Common Fisheries Policy make the point that fish know no boundaries, so any stock that moves across a boundary belongs to both sides. They therefore imply that the UK should remain within the CFP and not reinstate national control, or at least run a parallel system. This is a very devious argument as no one in the Faroe Islands, Iceland or Norway – whose waters all border what are currently EU waters – ever suggests that they should somehow surrender control of their waters because of fish migration. Independent sovereign nations tackle issues relating to straddling stocks using agreed international law.

CFP supporters also raise the subject of historic rights. These historic rights pre-date our membership of the EEC/EU, and are sub-divided into rights within the 6 to 12 nautical mile zone and the 12 to 200 nautical mile/median line zone. The first agreement on these rights, which covers the 6 to 12 mile zone, was the 1964 London Convention which gave France 15, West Germany 6, Belgium 5, Holland 3 and Ireland 2 geographical areas within the UK 6 to 12 nautical mile limit where they could fish. In return, the UK obtained similar rights to fish in two Irish, one French, one West German and one Dutch area within the 6-12 nautical mile zones belonging to these countries.

This was not a fair deal and even at the time, there was much debate as to whether France really qualified for such rights. In theory, the agreement was an attempt to secure a legal arrangement for fishing vessels who had regularly fished in a particular area between 1st January, 1953 and 31st December 1962. In practise, other forces were at work.

The London Convention needs to be understood in the context of the UK’s attempts to join the EEC, as it then was. Our first application was made as far back as 1961. France’s General de Gaulle vetoed this application in 1963 and was to do so again in 1967. While it cannot be proven, it is quite possible that even in the 1960s, our politicians were prepared to surrender a resource that belongs to the people of these islands as a sweetener to EU membership. This does seem the most plausible explanation for French fishermen being given such extensive access to our waters with little or nothing being given in return.

The net result of these arrangements was that small fishermen – and therefore smaller coastal communities – were particularly disadvantaged, since they tend to fish closer to the coast than larger vessels. Thanks to the desire of the Government for us to join the EU, they suddenly found themselves in competition with larger vessels from other countries without even having been consulted.

Under Article 15 of the Convention the agreement can be denounced by any contracting party after 20 years after coming into force, which did not happen until 1966. By 1986, we had joined the EEC, so this did not matter. EEC Regulations had superseded the Convention. If we were remaining within the EU (and thus within the CFP), it would still not be an issue, but with independence looming, this Article will acquire considerable importance.  Article 3 of the Convention is also important as if granted rights to specific fishing vessels operating at that time.

The reason for these articles being so important is that once we leave the EU, this CFP Regulation ceases to apply and earlier legislation, including the 1964 Convention, will regain its force. However, there is no legal obligation for Parliament to uphold these rights, In particular, given that the Convention took place over 50 years ago and unlike the current CFP legislation is vessel-specific, it is well-nigh impossible that any fishing boats covered by the legislation will still be in commercial use when we leave the EU.

The current CFP Regulation includes the derogation which the UK has had to renew every 10 years which restricts access by foreign vessels to the waters up to 12 nautical miles from the coast, although we have had to grant access to vessels from other member states that have acquired historical fishing rights in areas between six and twelve nautical miles from the UK coast. These historical rights are, in fact, those granted by the 1964 Convention and which, as was noted, unfairly favours France. Indeed, it does not make provision for any fishing in our waters by boats from countries which are now EU member states but which were not included in the 1964 agreement.

For this reason alone, Parliament needs to exercise its right to terminate the 1964 agreement as well as repealing the CFP legislation. We obviously will need to allow a limited degree of access for EU vessels into our waters upon independence, but the existing historic rights agreements are not suitable, especially as they are vessel-specific. Supporters of the CFP are therefore attempting to muddy the waters and in the process hindering the development of  a fisheries policy which would work in the UK’s best interests.