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.

Fishing:- Template letter to MPs

A number of our members and supporters have been in touch after signing the petition to stop the Common Fisheries Policy being adopted into UK law post-Brexit.

They have received a reply from the government e-petitions site which includes the following:-

A group of MPs called the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee are investigating how possible changes to the fisheries and seafood trading arrangements between the UK and the EU will affect fishers, seafood processors, consumers, coastal communities and the environment.

To help them with their investigation, they’d like to hear from you.

The Committee are particularly interested in these questions:

1. What are the most important things that the Government need to look at when thinking about UK fisheries?

2. What are the challenges and opportunities that UK fisheries will face after the UK leaves the European Union, Common Fisheries Policy and London Fisheries Convention?

3. What stock management objectives should the Government establish in order to achieve the right balance between the interests of seafood consumers, fishers, seafood processors and the environment?

4. What trade policy objectives should the Government establish in order to achieve the right balance between the interests of consumers, fishers, seafood processors, and the environment?

5. How effective are the Government’s arrangements for representing the interests of the UK’s constituent nations within the UK’s negotiations for fisheries?

Please see this attachment which we believe provides a suitable template for your reply. In our opinion, these five questions raised above do not get to the core of one important issue – that UK authorities alone must determine who fish in our waters. This letter does make that point and strongly endorses the “Faeroe-Islands-Plus-Plus” model advocated by Fishing for Leave.

We would strongly recommend not sending it verbatim as politicians are more likely to ignore large numbers of identically-worded e-mails or letters, but on the other hand, we also suggest that you largely stick to the subjects covered in the template, as much of the content originates with Fishing for Leave, which includes the most experienced fisheries campaigners in the country.

 

As a post script, if you would prefer to stick more closely to the five questions, John Ashworth of Fishing for Leave has provided the following suggestions:-

1) What are the most important things that the Government need to look at when thinking about UK fisheries?

  • That the UK becomes a world leader in fisheries management
  • Do not copy the Common Fisheries Policy
  • Re-establish our coastal communities
  • Address the issue of discarding of dead fish
  • The Nation’s resource must not end up in the hands of a few

2) What are the challenges and opportunities that UK fisheries will face after the UK leaves the European Union, Common Fisheries Policy and London Fisheries Convention?

  • Establish the UK as a maritime nation again
  • Create a multi billion pound industry, plus ancillary, including recreation and tourism
  • Get rid of the quota system
  • Abide by international law
  • Work with nature, not against
  • Create a policy that unites fishermen, fishery officers, and scientists

3) What stock management objectives should the Government establish in order to achieve the right balance between the interests of seafood consumers, fishers, seafood processors and the environment?

  • Use sea-time limit, not quota allocation, as that causes dumping
  • Maintain a balance between small, medium and large vessels
  • All marine resource caught in the UK’s EEZ must be landed in UK, unless individual permission is given by the UK government

4) What trade policy objectives should the Government establish in order to achieve the right balance between the interests of consumers, fishers, seafood processors, and the environment?

  • Trade deals should not be linked to access to UK fishing waters. Keep trade/access seperate
  • What marine resource the EU buys from UK cannot be readily obtained from elsewhere.
  • Must abide by internatonal law
  • You have to catch marine resource before you can process or sell it

5) How effective are the Government’s arrangements for representing the interests of the UK’s constituent nations within the UK’s negotiations for fisheries?

  • We don’t know as to date we have heard very little. I suspect the department would prefer the UK territorial waters out to 12 nautical.miles to continue to be devolved but the EEZ of 12 to 200n. Mile/median line as one unit.
  • Four separate EEZs would be a nightmare as international reciprocal arrangements have to be agreed.

 

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 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

The Common Fisheries Policy part 7: FleXcit: Our fisheries’ future.

One cannot expect to cross examine Prime Minister David Cameron on the issues on which he intends to campaign to stay in the EU if the leavers can’t explain what will replace EU membership. Hence the reason for FleXcit, which contains a lengthy section on Fisheries – from page 267 to 280. Dr. Richard North and Owen Paterson MP had already produced a green paper on the subject of Fisheries and this has now been incorporated into FleXcit

Anyone who campaigns in the forthcoming EU referendum, for the “leave” side, cannot just say that Parliament must repeal the European Communities 1972 Act, and hope for the best. That is not good enough. There has to be an orderly and amicable separation, which is not going to be easy. After 43years of integration, it is going to be a major challenge. However, as far as fisheries are concerned, it is no good scrapping one régime in order to establish another equally bad system. Withdrawal presents us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to show what can be achieved in an area that contains one of the finest marine resources in the world.

The North/Paterson green paper, now part of the overall Fisheries FleXcit plan, is excellent. It is the most exciting prospect for marine management, and for someone like myself who has worked on fishing vessels in many parts of the world, and has been heavily involved in conservation, I know the potential is staggering.

As far as the UK is concerned, the fundamental principle on which a policy should rest is that the fish and other sea creatures within the UK’s fishing zone of 200 mile/median line are the property of the nation as a whole. Custody of that resource lies with the central and devolved governments.

The first priority, therefore, is that control/competence is returned back to Britain. The overall Fishing Industry, while appearing as one, is made of several different groups, often opposing each other. The Industry is as divided now as it was in 1972 when the British Trawler Federation supported the “equal access” principle because they mistakenly thought they would gain access to Norwegian and Icelandic waters.

An inshore industry could be built around the 0 -12 mile limit, which would have a beneficial effect on coastal communities through tourism, recreational fishing, employment and other ancillary industries. All could be administered locally. The offshore Industry would be based on the 12 to 200 mile/median line, and then you have the straddling stocks and reciprocal arrangements, which brings genuine friendship between fishermen of different nations. When other nation’s vessels fish in our waters they would do so under our rules.

Devolved Fisheries Management Authorities (known as FMAs) could be set up. There would be two types: inshore (As far out as the 12 mile limit); and offshore (from 12 to 200 miles or up to the median line). Each would have a small executive board, responsible for policy-making, a consultative council and an executive arm responsible for administration. There would also be an agency, responsible for monitoring and carrying out enforcement action. Members would be appointed independently of the Secretary of State, and inshore boards would be appointed by the local authorities in the relevant maritime areas.

FleXcit’s fisheries proposals are based on the concept of “Days at Sea”. The advantage of this is that there is no reason to cheat. If you are a good fisherman, you will do well whereas a poor fisherman will not survive.

By contrast, the CFP is based on the political tool of quota – it has to be because of the integration process and equal access principle. It encourages cheating and dumping of non-quota catches either on shore or at sea. It is a rigid system trying to impose its will on a fluid and rapidly changing conditions.

Two essential features are needed for a viable fisheries policy. The first is the ability to be able rapidly to close areas down where juvenile fish are abundant. This has to be done within hours, even if the closure period may only last for a day or two. This ability to react quickly will never happen while our waters are under the control of Brussels control. The other important feature of any contemporary fisheries management is the use of selective gear, As a fishing gear designer I need to emphasise that the gear you design for one area is not the same for another area. Even if you are catching the same species, you need to make slight alterations to the gear. This level of adaption is impossible under the policy imposed by Brussels where one set of rules must fit the whole of a large area.

You must have fishermen on side to make this work, but again, under the North/Paterson proposals, this is far more likely than under the current EU- controlled regime. The attitude it has engendered is that if I don’t catch it, some other foreigner, even though it is another EU citizen, will get it, so I will get in first.
With selective gear, as long as the Minimum Landing Size (i.e., below which you are not allowed to sell) is above the breeding size, you can’t overfish, because you are culling the top of the pyramid. If there are no fish of that size, the fisherman will have no catch to sell, and will go out of business, but that is market forces at work, not overfishing.

Personally, I am strongly in favour of the model used by the Faeroe Islanders which operates in a diametrically opposite way to the EU system of setting for each species a total allowable catch on an annual basis, often based on dubious research. In my view it is no good working from the top of the pyramid downwards. Research should be directed at the base of the pyramid upwards; starting with the food source. Once you know the availability here, you can calculate what can be sustained at the top. If for example you have a collapse of the base, you have to fish the top hard, the very opposite to what would happen now.

To explain what I mean, this would be like a situation where a famine is taking place somewhere in the world and another million people are sent to that area to live there. If you don’t have the flexibility to enable fishermen to catch more adult fish, they will simply eat their young. This is exactly what happened in Norway when they destroyed their sand-eel stock. The adults took longer to grow and the fish that survived ate their young, destroying the next generation.. Sometimes one species will increase dramatically, and they have to be fished harder to restore the balance. You can only do this with a system as proposed under FleXcit, not the rigidity of Brussels.

Another area that is totally unfair is that fishermen have come under criminal law, which puts them on a par with drug dealers, thugs and thieves. This is not the way to get maximum co-operation out of those who harvest the sea, for which any successful fisheries régime requires maximum data being collected from the fishing industry. The best penalty for offences is to dock days at sea, and if the operator continues to offend, to take their fishing license away.

Leaving the EU per se is no solution in itself. It is only the beginning. Every badly-designed EU policy will require individual replacement with something better. And fisheries provided a useful example of exactly how a bad policy can be replaced by something better. Largely self-contained in policy terms, it makes an excellent test bed for policy development as well as illustrating the complexity of the repatriation process.

There is no question that it poses a challenge but at the same time the opportunity to do far better – to harvest nature’s gift free of political interference – cannot be ignored. Ranged against us are those who don’t want the Nation State, and those reformists who either don’t understand the workings of the EU, or else who have a hidden agenda. If they really believed in reform, they would want to get rid of the principle of equal access to a common resource without discrimination. However, such reform is impossible because of the thinking behind the EU Common fisheries policy, which is incapable of beneficial reform along the lines suggested here as it violates the very principles of integration enshrined in the EU treaties which it was designed to promote. Unfortunately, so-called reformists never acknowledge this harsh reality.