Michael Gove’s cabinet fishing battle

After the recent Brexit cabinet meetings it has been disclosed that Secretary of State Michael Gove had to “battle” to ensure cabinet agreement that Britain would control setting of fishing limits when Britain’s membership terminates on the 29th March 2019.

 Fishing for Leave welcomed Mr Gove’s attempts but said it is “shameful” that there had to be a “battle” with cabinet Remainers over fishing, given it is widely perceived as not only symbolic, but also an issue where the Conservatives have to exorcise the actions of Ted heath.

 Fishing for Leave’s Alan Hastings said; “We give a cautionary “Well Done” to Michael Gove! This now needs to be seen through if he and other parliamentarians want to be heroes instead of hounded!”

“We will irrefutably be independent state as of March 2019 with an automatic return of sovereignty over OUR waters & resources as we leave the CFP. Therefore, there is no need and fishing shouldn’t be given away again to be part of any type of ‘transition’ or ‘3rd party’ deal that see’s us bound into the CFP in anyway shape nor form”.

“Some arrangement where Britain is allowed to meekly speak from the back of a room in Brussels could only be a sell-out not a victory”.

 “Avoiding such a situation by not having a “transition” where we are a vassal state, will see Britain in the same position as Norway, Iceland and Faroe and the EU will have to seek arrangements to be allowed to continue to fish our waters and resources on an equal barter basis”.

Fishing for Leave said they are concerned that there is now a concerted elitist establishment campaign to thwart Brexit to name only.

Alan Concluded “It’s about time Brexiteers “take back control” to make sure we do really crack on an prepare to leave the EU properly – fishing is a key symbolic battle with a huge prize to be won for coastal communities and constituencies – a ‘transition’ would snatch this which is in touching distance as a beacon of success for all concerned”.

See also this article.

Transition will eradicate British fishing Industry

Press release from Fishing for Leave
  • Fishermen’s Organistation Fishing for Leave say it is now unequivocal fact that the “Transition” means we will be trapped obeying all EU law including the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as some sort of vassal state
  • FFL cite EU could trap UK in protracted legal claims for ‘continuity of rights’. Continued CFP is existential threat to what is left of the British fishing industry and coastal communities.
  • Group claims EU will have little charity as the UK will be locked into “legal purgatory” in the CFP where EU could cull UK fleet and claim ‘surplus’ UK hasn’t capacity to catch.
  • FFL implore government and MP’s to refuse the “transition” terms and to exempt fisheries from them

Fishermen’s organization Fishing for Leave say the proposed “transition” is a grave constitutional danger and an “existential threat” to the survival of Britain’s fishing industry and coastal communities.

The group say it is now clear that the “transition”, which they have been warning for months, would give the UK a Brexit in name only. In a position of neither remaining as a member, as Article 50 terminates the UKs current membership on the 29th of March 2019, nor leaving as the terms of the transition say the UK must obey the entire Acquis (all EU law -old and new) including the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

**NOTES
The EU clearly stated their terms as announced on 29th of January;

12. any transitional arrangements…. should cover the whole of the Union Acquis…Any changes to the Acquis should automatically apply to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period.

17. The UK will no longer participate in or nominate or elect members of the Union institutions, nor participate in the decision-making or the governance of the Union bodies, offices and agencies.

20. Specific consultations should also be foreseen with regard to for the fixing of fishing opportunities during the transition period, in full respect of the Union acquis.

CLAUSE 12 & 20 CLEARLY SAYS WE WILL STILL HAVE TO RESPECT THE ACQUIS (i.e. THE CFP). CLAUSE 17 SAYS WE’LL HAVE NO SAY OR RECOURSE

Veteran Campaigner John Ashworth said
“Our primary concerns  is ‘Continuity of Rights’ under treaty law. We have always been concerned that adoption of all EU law onto the UK statute book could allow the EU to cite that rights acquired under the Acquis should continue to apply – the EU has stated this since its parliamentary briefing notes on Brexit in February 2016”.

“A “transition” period compounds this danger. As it is part of the deal after we leave the EU under Article 50 and it will have to be underwritten by a new ‘transition’ treaty between the two parties. Under the terms of the treaty the UK will have agreed to re-obey the entire Acquis after we terminate our current membership”

“As we will either not terminate the new ‘transition’ treaty nor have a clearly defined Article 50 get out  clause where “the treaties cease to apply”, then Article 70 of the Vienna Convention says “unless the treaty otherwise provides…..the termination of a treaty does not affect any rights, obligations or legal situations created through the treaty”..

“In addition to this Article 30 of the Vienna Convention provides that if a previous and latter treaty are not incompatible, and that the old treaty is not terminated then the rights of that treaty will still apply.”

“We will have created a continuity of rights by adopting all EU law and then agreeing to obey it as per the terms of a transition treaty. The EU could then argue for this in protracted litigation that would bind us into the CFP and hamstring the UK for years to come”.   

                                                                                                                                                                                     
Existential Threat to the Fishing Industry
Alan Hastings of FFL continued;
“If we fail to break free from the CFP the EU will be free to implement policy changes to our detriment. We doubt the EU27 would feel charitable to their political prisoner who has no representation but abundant fishing waters”.

The group say that the ill-conceived EU quota system and discard ban is the existential threat that could be used to finish what’s left of our Britain’s fishing fleet allowing the EU to claim the ‘surplus’ that Britain would no longer have the capacity to catch.

Alan highlighted;
“Rather than address the cause of discards – quotas, the EU has banned the symptoms – discards.

Now when a vessel exhausts its lowest quota it must cease fishing. ‘Choke species’ will see vessels tied up early and, according to official government Seafish statistics, 60% of the fleet will go bankrupt”.

If a sizeable portion of the UK fleet is lost international law under UNCLOS Article 62.2 which says;  ‘Where a coastal State does not have the capacity to harvest the entire allowable catch, it shall… give other States access to the ‘surplus’.”

Fishing for Leave warns that between the EU having the opportunity to claim “continuity of rights” even if proved wrong they could drag out Britain being trapped in the CFP and its quota system and discard ban for enough time to fishing our fleet off.

Alan concluded;
Once we have lost our industry there is no way back from this Catch 22– if we do not have the fleet we cannot catch the “surplus” and if we do not have the “surplus” we cannot maintain a fleet. With this we will also lose a generation and their skills which are irretrievable.

The UK political establishment of all hues would not be forgiven for betraying coastal communities a second time.

“A transition destroys the opportunity of repatriating all Britain’s waters and resources worth between £6-8bn annually to national control. This would allow bespoke, environmentally fit-for-purpose UK policy that would benefit all fishermen to help rejuvenate our coastal communities”.

“As Minister, Eustice promised we could rebalance the shares of resources where we, have the EU fleet catching 60% of the fish in our waters but receive only 25% of the Total Allowable Catches even though we have 50% of the waters”

“This transition is the reverse of this and something exceptional that is within touching distance and what the public in constituencies across our land expect to see on this totemic and evocative issue”.

“The government and MPs must refuse the “transition” terms and exempt fisheries from them or we will consign another British industry to museum and memory.

“That Theresa May has known this all along means she, and her remain minded officials, are fully complicit in the embryonic stages of a second betrayal and sell out of Britain’s fishing industry”.

NOTE ON PM’s comments

For too long people have bought the government rhetoric. The PM and Ministers have repeated; “We will be leaving the Common Fisheries Policy on March 29, 2019”.

This spin has never been a commitment nor indication of a clean Brexit for fisheries. Those who kept citing these words have been either mendacious or naive to the reality of a Transition.

The government has known all along what the transition meant. The PM always continues, that;
“Leaving the CFP and leaving the CAP” wouldn’t give the opportunity until post that implementation (transition) period – to actually introduce arrangements that work for the United Kingdom. The arrangement that pertains to fisheries during that implementation period will, of course, be part of the negotiations for that implementation period”.

We may officially “leave” the CFP on 29th March 2019 but we’ll re-obey entire EU Acquis as part of the “transition” period after Article 50 officially terminates the UKs membership – we will have left in name only.

Fishing for Leave’s comments on the proposed transitional arrangements

Below is the EUs recommendations for the transition. Those with the particular detrimental implications for the United Kingdoms trade are Clause 14 and 15 as amended by the Council. Indeed, the implications defeat the whole point of HM Governments raison-d’etre for a transition.

TRADE

14. During the transition period, and in line with the European Council guidelines of 29 April 2017, the United Kingdom will remain bound by the obligations stemming from the agreements concluded by the Union, or by Member States acting on its behalf, or by the Union and its Member States acting jointly; while the United Kingdom should however no longer participate in any bodies set up by those agreements.

The Council replaced the words ‘will no longer benefit from’ with ‘will remain bound by the obligations stemming from’. It also deleted the words Where it is in the interest of the Union, the Union may consider whether and how arrangements can be agreed that would maintain the effects of the agreements as regards the United Kingdom during the transition period’.

The intention seems to be that the UK will still have obligations to the EU to apply agreements concluded with non-EU countries by the EU (or the EU jointly with its Member States).

However, since the withdrawal agreement cannot bind non-EU countries, those non-EU countries will no longer have obligations to the UK as the UK will no longer be an official member of the EU but merely maintaining regulatory alignment.

The UK would only be able to be recognised within such agreements if other non-Eu countries agree to continuing existing obligations in force.

The negotiation of treaties between the UK and non-EU countries is the subject of the next paragraph which seemingly makes that an impossible contradiction. 

15. In line with the European Council guidelines of 15 December 2017, any transitional arrangements require the United Kingdom’s continued participation in the Customs Union and the Single Market (with all four freedoms) during the transition. The United Kingdom should take all necessary measures to preserve the integrity of the Single Market and of the Customs Union. (full regulatory alignment is the only way to do so and this complies with Clause 49 of Phase 1 regards UK vs EU border on island of Ireland)

The United Kingdom should continue to comply with the Union trade policy. It should also in particular ensure that its customs authorities continue to act in accordance with the mission of EU customs authorities including by collecting Common Customs Tariff duties and by performing all checks required under Union law at the border vis-à-vis other third countries. During the transition period, the United Kingdom may not become bound by international agreements entered into in its own capacity in the fields of competence of Union law, unless authorised to do so by the Union.  

The final sentence added by the Council. This paragraph ensures no change in the application of the single market or the customs union to the UK during the transitional period.

This limits the UK’s power to enter into treaties and subjects the UK to more constraints than it would have as a Member State.

The UK will not be free to negotiate and sign treaties within the transitional period, even if those treaties only come into force afterward – we will only be able to begin to negotiate treaties AFTER the transition period.

How will this allow the UK to sign a trade deal with the EU for post-transition as David Davis claims the transition is necessary to facilitate?

One has to ask how under the terms of Clause 15 the UK will be able to respond to Clause 14 where the UK (as a non-EU member) would have to seek recognition by other non-EU counties for the UK being party to agreements they have concluded with the EU.

One struggles to see how we can enable a continuation of any agreements the EU has concluded with the rest of the world as per Clause 14 yet still comply with Clause 15?

This revised text means they have amended Clause 14 to appear a lifeline that doesn’t actually attach to anything.

We take this contradiction to mean we are locked into the single market and customs union but if other non-Eu nations fail to recognize the UK being party to the agreements they concluded with the EU (as we’re no longer a member – merely maintaining regulatory alignment) and we are unable to pursue our own agreement with such other non-EU nation then we are on WTO with the rest of the world which defeats the point of a transition in the first place.

It would be interesting to hear the government and DexEUs response to how Britain can conclude a future “deep and special” trade deal with the EU under the transition as David Davis professes is required if Clause 15 bars us from concluding agreements…?!?

 

FISHING INDUSTRY

Clause 20 obliges the UK to “consult” on fishing opportunities in full respect of the Acquis – i.e. obey the entire CFP!

20. Specific consultations should also be foreseen with regard to for the (interesting change/use of language..?)  fixing of fishing opportunities during the transition period, in full respect of the Union acquis.

Therefore, the UK delegation would possible be allowed to sit in the room yet the UK will still be bound by the ENTIRE ACQUIS and therefore the entire CFP – Equal Access, Relative Stability Shares and Quota system.

A continuation of the quota system where fishermen have to discard in order to find the species their quota allows them to keep conjoined with a fully enforced discard ban will finish the UK fleet.

Under the discard ban rather than address the cause of the discard problem, that a quota system does not work in mixed fisheries, the symptom of discards is banned. Under the discard ban a vessel must stop fishing when it exhausts its smallest quota allocation – these “choke species” will bankrupt 60% of the UK fleet as detailed by the governments own figures through Seafish.

This would destroy our catching capacity and allowing the EU to claim the “surplus” of our resources we would no longer be able to catch under terms of UNCLOS Article 62.2 due to such a culling of our fleet.

Signing up to a transition on will see the ruination of what is left of the UK fishing industry when Brexit should be its salvation. Another 2 years of the CFP and a continuation of the quota system will see our fishing industry become yet another British industry consigned to museum and memory.

CONCLUSION

Under the auspices of this proposed “deal” (more a dictation) the UK will be on WTO with the rest of the world, unable to conclude deals with the rest of the world until after the transition and will be locked into maintaining regulatory alignment whilst obeying the entire Acquis (with continued freedom of movement) and trapped in the CFP where our fishing industry will be culled to make way for the EU fleet. All whilst being subject to the ECJ and ruled by the Commission and Council as some sort of vassal state.

It is nearly unbelievable that the political establishment could contemplate locking the 5th most powerful nation in the world into such a subservient position especially against the expressed wish of the British people to leave the EU in its entirety as voted for in the biggest vote in British history.

Where our negotiators are going wrong- Part 2

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – or, to quote its proper name, the treaty of European Union (TEU) – is clear and precise with the added advantage that 27 Member States agreed its terms and all 28 current Members reconfirmed these provisions through the Accession Treaty of Croatia. So there can be no legal comeback when the Treaties cease to apply to the UK at 23.01 on 29th March 2019, and competency (control) of our Fisheries Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) ­of 200 nautical miles or median line becomes the responsibility of every single Member of Parliament in Westminster.

We will see the UK leave the Common Fisheries Policy, (CFP) and our EEZ will be operated under the guidance of international Law – UNCLOS3 – well, that is the theory.

Things do get more complicated, however, as Our Westminster Parliament is proposing to bring all the EU legislation in force up to 29th March 2019 (the Acquis), into domestic legislation, and this will include the CFP. This means that, having left the CFP legally and with the full support of all EU member states, our Parliament will then endorse what we have left through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. It will not be the CFP in name, but a carbon copy of the CFP, giving exactly the same rights to EU vessels in our EEZ as they currently enjoy.

It is a pretty poor outcome for our negotiators: All 27 EU member states have returned the competency back to Westminster and Westminster then passes a law giving those rights back.

The Government claims that it will also introduce a Fisheries Bill. At the moment, however, we have no idea of its contents or whether it will be robust enough to ensure UK control of our EEZ enabling us to introduce a UK system of fisheries management during the next stage of the Brexit plan – the two year transitional period also known as implementation period.

The Government does not wish to apply for an extension of the two years stipulated by Article 50, because it is concerned that the 17 plus million voters who supported Brexit will turn against them. Taking nearly three years to leave the EU is just about acceptable but five years would not be tolerated. The Government would be punished at the general election.

So the date of 29th March 2019 will remain as the date of leaving, and at 23.01 of that day we will no longer be a member of the EU and will become a “third country”. This means that all EU treaties cease to apply within the UK, including Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, so while the transitional period will be negotiated under Article 50, the actual implementation of that period will have operate under a different legal basis – a new treaty.

Both the European Commission and the European Parliament (which has a final say on any agreement), have made it very clear that no non member can have the same terms and conditions as a member, which is rather obvious otherwise there would be no point being a member.

One issue of which we can be sure is that, irrespective of the Fisheries Bill, the EU will demand that any implementation treaty must include the Fisheries Acquis and being a treaty, we could find ourselves falling foul of the Vienna Convention on Treaties, especially article 30 and 70, if the EU, a single member state or individual challenges the rights if our own Parliament rescinds what they  established. We could end up in a lengthy legal process.

This transitional/implementation period will be under the full authority of the EU institutions, including the ECJ, but there will be no UK representation at all. Even though the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU stated at a select committee session on 25 October 2017 that no new EU law will be acceptable post Brexit because it will be sorted before Brexit, no cherry picking will be allowed, so we would have to accept any new legislation during that period.

For the past 30 years, successive governments and main political parties have claimed that we hold a considerable degree of influence within the EU, but from April 2019 to March 2021 (perhaps 2022 as the European Parliament would allow up to three years), we would in effect be governed by the EU, as a third country, with no input whatsoever.

The Prime Minister and Ministers have made it very clear during this period that would adhere to International Law on fisheries. It is absurd that over the years, many UK political leaders have condemned the Common Fisheries Policy and yet our own Parliament could end up unilaterally implementing the very policy they condemn. Furthermore, this would not comply in any form to the requirements of International law, UNCLOS 3, especially Article 61 (Conservation of the living resource), Article 62  (Utilization of the living resource), Article 63 (Straddling stocks) and Article 64 (Highly migatory species).

Fishing for Leave has  produced a management plan/model, designed by those with practical experience, for the UK’s fishing EEZ that ticks all the boxes. It is environmentally sustainable, follows International law, creates harmony between fishermen, scientists and fishery officers, while at the same time if will engender a revival of our coastal communities. This plan is based on the Faeroe Islands’ “days at sea” principle, but it has learnt from the Faeroese’ mistakes and is an improvement on the original crude “days at sea” model The Faeroese Government is impressed and is now extremely interested in the FfL model. By contrast, the alternative, which we could yet end up with, is a carbon copy of the present CFP. It will be a complete failure  – socially, environmentally, and economically – and could end up giving the Nation’s resource away permanently.

There are those that appear to think that as far as fisheries is concerned, the UK will still be subservient to the EU after Brexit. With our mixed fisheries, which requires its own plan, we should be the world leader. We will never get another opportunity to do this and it is down to political will. The buck stops with every Member of Parliament in Westminster; the potential is there to make Brexit either a huge success, or a catastrophic failure. Failure will bring with it a very heavy price, because although the responsibility rests with every MP, the electorate will see it as the Government’s fault.

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.

 

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