Brexit – the current state of play

Edward Spalton gave this review of the Brexit situation at CIB’s annual rally on 14th April 2018. In view of the need for a simple summary of the progress (or lack of it) regarding Brexit, it is may be of benefit for readers to study his assessment of the present state of play.

2017 was an intensely frustrating year for independence campaigners. Looking back at my last annual report, it is remarkable how little has really progressed. Yet we are now less than a year away from Brexit on 29th March 2019 when, as it says in Article 50, clause 3, of the Lisbon Treaty, “The treaties shall cease to apply…unless the European Council in agreement with the member state concerned unanimously decides to extend this period”.

This is one part of the “cliff edge” to which Mrs. May occasionally refers. Much of the law on which we rely for our protection now comes from our 46 year sojourn in the EU. We would be in a legal vacuum at home, if the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill were not enacted by Brexit day to repatriate EU law to the British statute book. For instance, there would be no laws at all protecting food safety.

It is nauseous hypocrisy that Europhiles in Parliament, who never raised the least objection to the outsourcing of huge swathes of our law to the foreign power in Brussels, have tried to hinder the Bill’s passage. They suddenly discovered a devotion to the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty. The Bill, they claim, gives too much power to the government – “Henry VIII powers”- they say. Yet Parliament can sack the government, something it could never do with the European Commission – or with Henry VIII for that matter!

One other great aspect of the “cliff edge” is the interface between ourselves and the EU countries with which we have very close relations on which many people’s livelihoods depend. Mrs. May gave notice that the UK would become an independent country outside the EU and European Economic Area. So all sorts of things just cease to exist, if there is no new agreement with the EU in place by Brexit day. For instance, your driving licence will no longer be valid for EU countries. Neither, of course, will EU driving licenses be valid here – unless it has been specifically agreed, along with thousands of other matters great and small – and there is less than a year to do all this.

After Mrs. May made this intention known in her Lancaster House speech in January 2017, the EU pointed out that all its regulations for dealing with imports from foreign countries outside the EU would apply to British goods after Brexit, if no other agreement was in place. The British government knows exactly what these regulations are because Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs plus the Port Health Officers and Local Authorities apply these same rules already to goods arriving here from countries outside the EU. The port of Southampton deals with 1,300,000 containers per year. So the government has full information about all the procedures.

There is no excuse for delay in informing export businesses of the rules which they will face – particularly the need for firms to appoint an EU-based representative to take responsibility to the authorities for the compliance of goods with EU health and technical standards, a far more onerous business than an easily computed tariff.

The EU itself has been issuing “Notices to Stakeholders”, setting out the requirements sector by sector . But from Her Majesty’s Government to British exporters, there has been no advice at all.

It seems that the government has been deliberately avoiding consultations with business. Theresa May set up a business advisory council which, at the time of writing, has not met since October 2017. Chris Brannigan, the key Downing Street official responsible for communicating government policy to business, left in June after the general election and has not been replaced. It seems that nobody wants the job. (Edward Malnick, Whitehall Editor, Sunday Telegraph 4 March). In spite of the need to have a confident and well-informed business community, there is a black hole at the centre of government communication. It is as if they are frightened to tell business the likely outcomes of their policy – insofar as any coherent policy yet actually exists. It ought to be known in considerable detail 21 months after the referendum.

Last year I wrote “If we leave the EU without an agreement, British goods will be treated as “third country” origin, That is, from a country outside the EU which is what we want to be! The EU will not be “punishing” us by treating us as an independent country”. The EU has been very clear all along that it would maintain the integrity of its common external border, one of its main institutions. Even countries with “deep and special” free trade agreements, like South Korea and Canada, accept that. There are ways of making compliance less onerous and more “frictionless”, such as electronic pre-declarations for customs and “trusted trader” schemes. The government has conspicuously failed to come up with specific, detailed workable suggestions and has so far neither recruited staff for training nor placed orders for necessary infrastructure. So the EU has developed its own policies which are very unpalatable and in parts completely unacceptable, especially with regard to the Irish border and the so-called “implementation” period after March 29th 2019.

Unfortunately British ministers spent most of 2017 deluding themselves, their more credulous colleagues, supporters and eurosceptic media that we could “have our cake and eat it”. That is, “Britannia would waive the rules” – we could leave the EU, make our own and expect the EU to treat our products as if we were still EU members – a piece of monumental ignorance and arrogance., slightly modified in tone by Mrs May in her speech from Florence in the Autumn and by her more recent Mansion House speech which has not really clarified very much else at all.

In researching these matters, I hunt for various sources of information to get as good an all-round picture as possible. The following short article from Private Eye summarised things so well that I am grateful to the editor for permission to publish it. Whilst it is not comforting reading, it is necessary information for mature campaigners to know.

DExEU DESPATCHES.

The Department for Exiting the EU, aka DExEU, has never been a happy place. David Davis’s fiefdom took several months to find a formal home in Whitehall. It was able to attract hundreds of bright young things, keen to serve their country in its hour of need in negotiating Brexit. But the sheen soon wore off. Officials privately concede that their ministers are being comprehensively outgunned by Michel Barnier’s European Commission team.

The place also “leaks like a sieve from top to bottom” says one former official.

“Olly Robbins (Theresa May’s Brexit adviser) is basically being left in a room to negotiate without a mandate” says another.

Eighteen months after its creation, 3 per cent of officials are leaving DExEU each month and 44 per cent are likely to leave in the next year, says the Institute for Government.

Even though several thousand officials have been reshuffled across Whitehall to support the creation of DExEU and Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade, the 600 strong DExEU still has 143 vacancies 18 months after it opened its doors. Many of its staff are on short term contracts, either loaned from other departments or from outside the civil service.

If many DExEU staff are on the Whitehall equivalent of “zero hours” contracts, Davis’s team has at least been flashing the cash at management consultants. Deloitte helped set up DExEU in Summer 2016 and others who have benefited from its largesse include Boston Consulting Group, Accenture, KPMG and McKinsey.

McKinsey was paid £1.5 million last September to lead DExEU’s “Brexit Planning”, a move that achieved little other than see McKinsey’s executives pocket inflated salaries while rubbing shoulders with lowly civil servants, safe in the knowledge that they will return to the private sector when all the Article 50 unpleasantness is over.

Needless to say that had nothing to do with Tom Shinner, the department’s director of policy and delivery coordination whose job is to lead “DEXEU’s work to coordinate the domestic policy implications of Brexit across government departments, to seize the opportunities and ensure the smooth process of exit……….”

So it is not very surprising that the EU is able to outrun them by just standing still.

Having failed (if it was ever intended) to have a workable Brexit up and running by March 2019, it is not surprising that Mrs. May is a desperate supplicant to the EU for extra time to get her house in order after all the wasted opportunities of the previous year – not least two months taking her eye off the ball to fight an unnecessary election after Article 50 notice had already been served and the clock was ticking remorselessly down to Brexit day.

Naturally the EU is demanding very severe terms which will place the UK in the position of a vassal state with no rights and Parliament not actually recognised as a real Parliament in the eyes of the EU. Every EU law will apply, including any new ones they choose to spring during this period of “implementation”. Ominously our own government has asked to be able to extend it beyond the originally intended 21 months.

Looking back on our labours since our last AGM, I cannot report much significant progress on three of the key issues which we identified then. Although the EU itself may unwittingly have come to our aid on one of them!

A Truly Independent British Fisheries Policy.

Edward Heath’s surrender of our fisheries to EU plunder as a “common resource” may well be continued. Our territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone could easily be used as a bargaining counter. Our friends in Fishing for Leave point out that the proposed “implementation” period would imply the continuance of EU fishing rights and of the iniquitous quota system. Ominously in her Mansion House speech,

Mrs May referred to “shared stocks” of fish – in our own waters! That is rather like catching the burglar red-handed with the family silver and conceding he has a right to share it! The EU has since indicated that it intends to do a little “cherry picking” of its own, demanding the continuance of rights for EU vessels equivalent to the Common Fisheries Policy as part of its price for a free trade deal.

The European Arrest Warrant, Europol and the European Gendarmerie

On the presently suggested terms, these institutions will remain in existence with full powers throughout the “implementation” period. Prominent members of the government are known to favour these arrangements. One Conservative minister was on record as welcoming the possibility of deploying these foreign men at arms on our streets. So far, we have not heard that he has changed his mind! However, the EU has indicated that, as a non member, we may not be allowed to take part in these institutions . So the EU rules may actually protect us from Mrs. May’s fondness for subjection to them, developed during her time as Home Secretary.

The European Defence Agency and European Defence Integration

Following the referendum, the government signed up to a whole swathe of EU initiatives, bringing defence forces closer together. Parliament was not awake to the danger. The government did not sign up to the permanent structure (PESCO) but has gone along with a great deal which has the potential to tie our hands in the procurement of armaments for our own forces.

We continue to campaign on these issues and have prepared an informative booklet for MPs and others. This includes detailed information and suggestions for avoiding the trap of the vassal status of the presently proposed vassal status of the implementation period.

It will be available on the website as a PDF.* A number of copies will be available for sale to members .

Edward Spalton – Chairman

* Brexit Reset In pamphlets section of publications.

 31st May 2018 – Supplementary Note.

I can well understand the exasperation felt concerning the lack of progress. Some have suggested that “No deal is better than a bad deal”. If that turns out to be the case on 29 March next year, then the government has followed Mr. Cameron’s precedent of “no Plan B” and Britain and British business are totally unprepared. The Dutch appear to be further forward than us, having begun the training of extra customs staff and allocation of space for new port facilities. Trading with post Brexit Britain, they say, will be procedurally the same as trading with Morocco.

Some companies are already making their own precautionary arrangements. Rolls Royce, for instance, is preparing to move its regulatory compliance operation to mainland EU. EasyJet has moved its headquarters to mainland EU and has plans to change its Articles of Association so that a majority of its shareholders must be EU nationals. This will enable it to keep flying in the “No Deal” situation.

If there is no agreement, Rolls Royce aero engines would have no valid safety certification and cease to be saleable. By leaving the EU and EEA, the government also leaves the European aviation safety agency EASA which produces the safety certification. There is no present provision for non EU countries to belong to EASA. The British Civil Aviation Authority has said that it would take some five to ten years to build its operation up to the required global scale and standard to replace it. There are other similar EU bodies for different industries where the government is trying to get back in on some sort of associate status. Whilst Britain negotiated opt-outs whilst an EU member, it is now trying to negotiate various opt-ins as an independent country. That is somewhat ironic!

When Britain joined the EEC in 1973, our family firm had already received over a year of thorough briefing from the government and so were prepared. We had some problems but could nonetheless get on with making our living from day one. Businesses have to pay their bills and wages every week so a smooth transition is essential. Once businesses close they very rarely reopen. I describe the experience of joining the EEC in the series “The Miller’s Tale” at the end of Episode 2 and all of Episode 3. To give the sort of guidance we then received, the government had to know exactly what it was doing. That does not appear to be the case today.

Aspirations, but little detail

The Government’s eagerly-awaited white paper, “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union” appeared yesterday. It consists of over 70 pages in total, although one or two pages are blank.

It has twelve sections, which are as below:-

1. Providing certainty and clarity – We will provide certainty wherever we can as we approach the negotiations.

2. Taking control of our own laws – We will take control of our own statute book and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the UK.

3. Strengthening the Union – We will secure a deal that works for the entire UK – for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and all parts of England. We remain fully committed to the Belfast Agreement and its successors.

4. Protecting our strong and historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area – We will work to deliver a practical solution that allows for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area, whilst protecting the integrity of our immigration system and which protects our strong ties with Ireland.

5. Controlling immigration – We will have control over the number of EU nationals coming to the UK.

6. Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU – We want to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in other Member States, as early as we can.

7. Protecting workers’ rights – We will protect and enhance existing workers’ rights.

8. Ensuring free trade with European markets – We will forge a new strategic partnership with the EU, including a wide reaching, bold and ambitious free trade agreement, and will seek a mutually beneficial new customs agreement with the EU.

9. Securing new trade agreements with other countries – We will forge ambitious free trade relationships across the world.

10. Ensuring the UK remains the best place for science and innovation – We will remain at the vanguard of science and innovation and will seek continued close collaboration with our European partners.

11. Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism – We will continue to work with the EU to preserve European security, to fight terrorism, and to uphold justice across Europe.

12. Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU – We will seek a phased process of implementation, in which both the UK and the EU institutions and the remaining EU Member States prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us.

After reading it through, the abiding impression it creates is that it has identified the key issues we will face in leaving the EU and also sets out in very broad terms what the Government would like a post-Brexit UK to look like. What is missing is the detail, including how we will arrive at the end point.

To take one subject which will be familiar to readers of this website – fishing.  All the White Paper tells us is that “it is in both our interests to reach a mutually beneficial deal that works for the UK and the EU’s fishing communities. Following EU exit, we will want to ensure a sustainable and profitable seafood sector and deliver a cleaner, healthier and more productive marine environment.” There is no detail regarding what is to supersede the Common Fisheries Policy, even though there would be huge problems if it were  repatriated into UK Law.

For instance, Regulation 1380/2013, the most important fisheries regulation, contains numerous mention of “union waters”. On leaving the EU, the waters up to 200 nautical miles from our shoreline (or the median point where we are less than 400 miles from another country’s coasts) will no longer be union waters, so a lot of re-writing would be necessary. Why bother, however, when the CFP and its quota system is so seriously flawed?  We can but hope that by the time negotiations get under way, the Government realises the importance of excluding fisheries legislation from any large-scale repatriation of the EU Acquis into UK law.

The White Paper raises the issue of the EU customs union and our future relationship with it. The Government has been very enthusiastic about wanting to make the most of our freedom to strike our own trade deals but there is very little detail about how it proposes to maintain trade with the EU. “There are a number of options for any new customs arrangement, including a completely new agreement, or for the UK to remain a signatory to some of the elements of the existing arrangements.”

The positive assessment of the UK’s involvement in Ukraine (under Section 11) does not make for happy reading, sadly. Now we are on the way out, it is time to leave the EU to its own empire building and to join President Trump in seeking rapprochement with Russia rather than than continuing foolishly and unnecessarily to antagonise Moscow.

Of course, this white paper has been produced to satisfy demands by MPs to be given some idea about the Government’s Brexit plans. The government has a bit of a tightrope to walk. MPs understandably don’t want to be left in the dark but at the same time, there are good reason for Mrs May and her team keeping their cards close to their chest so as not to give too much away to the people from the EU with whom they must negotiate.

On balance, however, anyone who has been listening to the recent speeches by Mrs May and her Brexit team would have not found much in this document which they did not already know. It defines the important tasks which needs to be addressed and paints a very positive vision of what life will be like once we’re out. How the Government will take us to this point is another matter and we hope more will be revealed soon as it cannot afford to get this wrong.

 

Brexit means…..?

We now have less than three months to wait until Mrs May will invoke Article 50 and we formally begin the process of leaving the EU.  This means we will finally see her “Brexit means Brexit ” statement fleshed out, although it is doubtful if we will know all the detail by the end of March, especially as there are likely to be a good few twists and turns between the invocation of Article 50 and Independence Day.

During 2017 the Campaign for an Independent Britain will continue to fight for the best possible Brexit deal, working alongside other like-minded individuals and organisations. We will let you more as our plans develop, but here are a few guidelines which we believe will help ensure Brexit is successful.

Firstly, Brexit DOES NOT mean a trade-off between single market access and free movement of people from the EU. If the Government is considering remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA) – possibly by re-joining EFTA, the European Free Trade Area – as an interim position, the “four freedoms” of the Single Market are not indivisible for a non-EU country, in spite of claims to the contrary by the likes of Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian Prime Minister.

Iceland suspended free movement of capital following its banking crisis and, as has been pointed out on this website and elsewhere, Liechtenstein imposed restrictions on free movement of people over 20 years ago. Readers may remember that David Cameron’s “deal”  included a so-called “emergency brake”  – an agreement with the other 27 member states that if we voted to remain in the EU, we could restrict the in-work benefits paid to migrants for four years.

All Mr Cameron was doing was asking permission to apply Article 112 of the EEA agreement. Outside the EU, if we took the EFTA route, we wouldn’t have to ask the 27 member states and could impose far tougher restrictions than merely restricting benefits. Like Liechtenstein, we could drastically limit the numbers too. Liechtenstein has done nothing more than making use of an article in an existing agreement. We could do the same if the government chooses to go down the EFTA route.

Of course, we do not know if this is Mrs May’s plan, but it is inconceivable, given the number of on-line articles and research papers which have addressed this subject, that she and her advisers are not aware of Article 112 and Liechtenstein’s use of it. It is high time that the canard of the indivisibility of the “four freedoms” was laid to rest once and for all.

So what else does Brexit mean?

Firstly, freedom from the European Court of Justice. UK law and its courts must be the final arbiter of British justice.  We should pull out of participation in the European Arrest Warrant, which has resulted in UK residents being sent for trial abroad on hearsay evidence.  Furthermore, Brexit must lead to the return of trial by jury and other features of our historic legal system which have gradually been eroded by our membership of the EU.

Next, Freedom from any involvement with the European Defence Agency and an independent foreign policy. We should obviously work together with the EU where it is mutually beneficial so to do, but we should  not be involved with the EU’s empire building in the Balkans or former soviet republics such as the Ukraine.

Brexit must mean an end to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). As John Ashworth has argued, the concept of “Community waters”, the quota system, and the ridiculous amount of fish caught by boats from other EU member states in what are our national waters by right is a disgrace that has cost thousands of jobs in the fishing industry. The opportunity to revive our coastal communities through a well-designed fishing policy on similar lines to the Faroese scheme must not be passed over.

A replacement to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must also be designed. Unlike the CFP, which hardly benefits any UK fishermen at all (apart from those who have bought quota and then re-sell for profit), the CAP’s single farm payment is a lifeline for many in the agricultural sector. As an interim measure, a single payment system managed in Westminster rather than Brussels may be the answer, but looking further ahead, something more imaginative is essential as the CAP, initially designed to support small French farmers, has never been a good way to manage farming in the UK.

Finally, Brexit means not only taking the UK out of the EU but taking the EU out of the hearts of UK citizens. Schoolchildren and students have suffered years of indoctrination through pro-EU propaganda.  They will be the biggest beneficiaries of Brexit, but as anyone who has taken part in debates on the EU in schools and universities has discovered,  most of them don’t realise it at the moment.

So there will be much to keep us in the Campaign for an Independent Britain busy as 2017 approaches. On that note, may we wish all our members and supporters a Happy New Year.

 

“Repatriation” of EU law into UK law – what does it mean?

Although the proposal to “Repatriate” EU law into UK law has been made both by the hardest of Brexiteers and by the Prime Minister, many independence campaigners are still distinctly uneasy at the idea that large parts of the “Acquis Communautaire” being incorporated onto our statute books as Britiish legislation, for later amendment,  replacement or repeal if thought desirable.

Perhaps this note will help to explain the reason why this is necessary and dispel unfounded fears.

We are in a similar position to the newly-independent Parliament of the Irish Free State in 1922 when it enacted its constitution. Although the situation of  the United Kingdom government and Parliament vis a vis the institutions of the EU is by no means identical to that of the Irish Parliament of 1922 to the British government of the day, there is sufficient similarity in the situation, as a Great Repeal Bill is promised and its wording will be scrutinised.

With regard to the “nationalisation” of EU laws to the British statute book, Act No.2  of 1922 in the newly independent Irish parliament adopted all the laws from the Westminster Parliament to be effective in the Irish Free State and enforced by its institutions. To have done anything less would have left an impossible legal vacuum.

A similar thing would happen here on a lesser but significant scale, if (as some suggest) we simply repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and abrogate the treaties.

Amongst other things, there would be no laws at all to protect food safety and no legal basis for the Customs and Excise.  These both presently  stem from regulations made in Brussels, not Act of Parliament and would instantly cease to exist if the U.K. simply “walked away” from its treaty obligations and repealed the European Communities Act 1972.

We do have time during the two-year negotiating period of Article 50 to highlight some legislation to exclude from the “nationalisation” of EU law, in particular fisheries, where there is no need to pursue a shadow version of the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy. Unlike, for example, food safety or bathing water standards, where we would have no laws at all if we did not incorporate the acquis into UK law, we are in a different position with fisheries. Making an exception gives us complete control over our national waters and than chance to bring in a much better  fisheries management system.  Similar considerations apply with agriculture.

See also the attachment A Time Like Never Before from our last CIB members’ newsletter. The Prime Minister has decisively rejected any harebrained scheme to renege on treaty agreements and also promised a Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972  when the agreed settlement is in place. We will then finally be out of the EU which, after all, is our main objective. The tidying up can come later!

Fisheries Part 5:- Brexit must mean Brexit

I hate to be sounding a negative note after the euphoria of the recent Conservative Party conference, but having seen and spoken to so many people in Birmingham, from Ministers and MPs to ordinary party members and lobbyists, I got a pretty good feel as to what is developing and as far as fisheries is concerned, it could end up being a sell-out.

The party is currently on a massive high. It believes that it will be in power for years to come, but if it does not deliver a good Brexit, it could be heading for serious trouble in the not too distant future.

Mrs May stated her intention to invoke Article 50 will be invoked by the end of March 2017. The objective is that we will have left the EU before both the next European Parliamentary elections and the next UK general election. This sounds fine, but even at very senior levels, there is still considerable ignorance about the implications of Section 3 of Article 50, that the Treaties shall cease to apply the moment we finally leave.

The next Queen’s speech, which is usually delivered in May, will lay out the intention to repeal the European Communities 1972 Act, the Act which allows all EU legislation to pass into UK law, This repeal act is expected to be passed before the two year Article 50 period is up.

So far so good. This is part and parcel of Mrs May’s insistence that the UK will again be a sovereign and independent country. The problematical part is how the government proposes to address the problem of filling the holes that result from EU legislation no longer having any force because the treaties no longer apply. What about, for example, the standards for bathing water in UK beaches, which have been determined by the EU?  What of other environmental legislation which originated with the EU?

The simplest and safest models to follow are countries like Ireland and India. When Ireland beacme independent in 1922, it incorporated all existing British law into Irish law and unpicked those acts which did not suit Ireland’s interests once things had settled down. India adopted a similar policy in 1947.  Mrs May has hinted that the UK government intends to follow the same route – in other words, to incorporate the full acquis communautaire (all EU legislation), into UK law and then review everything at a later date, discarding those laws which are not in the national interest.

However, there is no reason why some exceptions should not be made and fisheries is one such area. If all EU fisheries legislation was just incorprated lock, stock and barrel into UK law, it would not only be an opportunity wasted but would create serious and totally unnecessary problems.

The Common Fisheries Policy is well known to have been a disaster both for our fishermen and for the marine environment. The beauty of Article 50 is that at the end of the two year period the Treaties and regulations cease to apply. As the CFP has relied on regulations, this means that without having to do anything at all, control of our 200 mile/median point reverts to the UK government.

Unfortunately, it appears that the government is planning to include the CFP in the overall incorporation of the acquis communautire into UK law, which means that we would continue with the CFP in all but name. This means that Parliament will continue to give our resource away and worse still, it is sending out a signal that we endorse the CFP.

By the time we have reached the proivisonal exit date, the present 10-year management derogation under which we presently operate would have been up for review if we were still in the EU, as it is due to expire at the end of 2022. If we agree to continue with what is something like the CFP, we will therefore find ourselves stuck on April Fool’s Day 2019 facing a complex set of negotiations just to determine how much access our fishermen may have to something which is theirs by right.

Under international law, the waters round the UK are as much part of our country as the Yorkshire Dales or the South Downs. Considering the tough words we heard about restricting access to our country for EU citizens, it is therefore crazy not to take the chance of restricting access to our waters by EU fishing vessels. It will be a tough balancing act if the Government is to secure sufficient access to the Single Market without having to agree to freedom of movement for EU citizens. It can be done, as Liechtenstein has shown, but even so, the repatriation of fisheries to natonal control  is far more straightforward. Do absolutely nothing during the two-year Article 50 period and the moment we leave,  the regulations cease to apply. Job done.

Unfortunately, unless we continue to lobby hard, I can envisage the UK agreeing to a fisheries policy  running in parallel with the CFP. The possibility of turning British fisheries round and introducing a sensible and sustainable model, based on days at sea rather than the flawed quota system, may well be wasted, along with it the opportunity to revitalise our coastal communities. Sadly, at conference, the only person I met who fully understood the situation as I have described it was the Scottish Conservative MEP Ian Duncan.

Unless the Conservative Party gives a clear commitment to ensuring that at the same time as the acquis is transferred to UK law, the relevant parts of UK legislation that gives the quota share-out and historic rights to the EU, is repealed, then it could result in the termination of our industry. Two generations will have gone due the the blight of the CFP and very few young people are coming into the Industry. This is our last chance to rebuild the industry. Sadly, it  became very clear as conference progressed that one has any confidence that the Conservative hierarchy has the will to take back real control of our 200 nautical mile/median line zone. The emphasis sadly seems to be on looking after our European neighbours rather than making Brexit mean Brexit.

What has changed since 1972? Just like Peter Walker, who refused to fight tough in 1982 when the first derogation was up for renewal because it might upset “our friends and partners in Western Europe“, the emphasis sadly still seems to be on looking after the interests of our European neighbours rather than making Brexit mean Brexit. Mrs May has insisted that the UK will not be a “supplicant” to Brussels  and “will negotiate from a position of strength”, but here is a case where the mechanics of the EU have dealt us a strong hand and her ministers seem intent on throwing it away.

This may seem a very downbeat assessment, but it is better that everyone is aware of the problem at this stage so that we can organise a campaign before Article 50 is invoked. As Sir Robert Worcester, the founder of Mori, pointed out at a fringe meeting, one person in a hundred switching sides during a General Election can change the result. Over 17 million people voted to leave the EU. When they realise that unless the Government give a clear commitment on fisheries, Brexit does not mean Brexit, the current euphoria in the Conservative Party could rapidly come to an end.

Fisheries Part 3 – There must be no attempt to create a Mark 2 CFP on independence

Many of my fisheries articles have looked back at previous events, but if HMG produces the correct policy, we can finally start to look forward.

In the last article, we pointed out how the Treaties shall cease to apply, taking the Regulations with them. Regulation 170/83 started the EU quota, based on tonnage per species, including the distribution keys to the various Member States, known as relative stability. This cancerous Regulation has now been superseded by another equally dreadful one – Regulation 1380./2013.

The EU’s quota system, like the CFP as a whole, was nothing more than a political tool designed to speed up the drive towards integration. Given that it is widely acknowledged to have been an environmental and economic disaster, it may seem incredible that, with the prospect of an escape from this project now on the horizon, some people are lobbying for the UK to create a sort of Mark 2 CFP on independence, allowing EU vessels the same or slightly less access to British waters as present. Such an outcome would not be Brexit and would continue to be an environmental disaster.

Any sort of shadow CFP must be opposed because the quota system is so unworkable. It has ended up criminalising all EU fishermen, as they have all had to cheat in order to survive. The cheating goes back a long way. It began with falsifying records of how much of which species were caught and where.

Misreporting the species of fish which were being caught and the area in which a given boat was fishing resulted in wrong scientific data and an inaccurate basis on which to determine future quota.

Then there are the unauthorised, so called “black fish” landings. If fishermen have exceeded their quota, they either have to land fish surreptitiously or throw them back in the sea. The authorities have long recognised there is a problem with the CFP, but their attempts to close the loopholes by tightening regulation has only made matters worse. The latest controversy has been the introduction of an unworkable discard ban which, in practise, has not stopped the destruction of thousands of tons of marketable fish. No one knows exactly how much is still being discarded.

It is possible to design gear to separate species, although not to the level necessary fully to prevent discarding. At least this gear does ensure that what is deliberately allowed to escape survives. However, the discard regulations are so complex that not even the fisheries officers are fully conversant with how the rules apply in different areas.

When you are given a quota by weight per species, you end up destroying other species in the process of trying to catch those final few fish, while at the same time prolonging fishing time. For the unique mixed fishing environment found in UK waters, home to approximately 30 different species of fish, you could not have devised a more destructive method of managing fisheries than the discard regulations included in the CFP.

I was the first person to highlight discarding, back in 1988, when I used to write a fortnightly column in the fishing press. Now, 28 years on, we now have a discard ban which looks good on paper, but it is still happening out at sea thanks to the unworkable EU system of quota. I made the discard calculations then on the basis of what I had seen myself when working on board a number of trawlers. Unfortunately, the EU’s current discard rules were written by people who are committed to pursuing an integrationist agenda and who have never been out at sea or understood the difficulties which fishermen are facing.

Of course, an independent UK will need some sort of fisheries management system and we will look at this in more detail in part 4, but it would be crazy to copy a system which is rotten in the core – one that never has, and never will, work in our mixed fishery. Unfortunately, pressure is being applied to do just this – to roll over and give the British people’s resource away again. There are far too many people talking about just negotiating a share of our own resource – in other words, allowing a sort of CFP to continue with the rest of the resource being shared out among the present EU members. To start discussions on that basis is capitulation.

Why is anyone supporting anything even remotely resembling the CFP? Simply because some within the Industry want to keep the status quo in the aftermath of Brexit in order to protect their interests. They have invested millions of pounds in purchasing quota, turning quota into a saleable commodity, for which, if the CFP were to be scrapped, they would have no legal entitlement. With a certain bank having invested heavily in purchasing quota, it and other beneficiaries are creating a great deal of pressure for the UK to create a sort of Mark 2 CFP on independence, allowing EU vessels the same or slightly less access to British waters as present.

Let us be clear on this:- such pressures must be resisted and a policy of procrastination is perfectly sufficient.  Our negotiators need only sit the two years out, do absolutely nothing and wait. As proven by the Kent Kirk case, which we considered in the previous article, if there is no agreement by the end of the two-year period stipulated under Article 50, fisheries reverts to national control. In other words, it becomes our national resource and the other EU countries will have no quota whatsoever unless we offer it to them. Once our negotiators appreciate how strong a hand this deals us, it will be the EU that will be desperate to negotiate with us, not the other way round.

In a future article, I will list the tonnage and value of the catch which EU vessels currently take out of British waters without giving us anything in return. I will also show how much of this freebie we provide them is then sold back to us. The figures will come as something of a shock.

It is ironic that one of the objectives of the EU project was to create a sense of unity among the peoples of European. The CFP has had the opposite effect, causing resentment and nationalism. It would be great to get back to the earlier situation when fishermen were seaman first and foremost, and nationality didn’t matter, but then to understand this camaraderie, you have to have spent time out there at sea, something most EU officials would never dream of doing.