Mrs May – trying to face both ways

Like the Roman god Janus, Our Prime Minister, it seems, is trying to face both ways at once. On the one hand, she has been kicking out against the unacceptable terms which the EU  has set for any transitional agreement while on the other, she seems keen to capitulate on important areas such as criminal justice.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator recently stated that agreement on a Brexit transition was “not a given” and with good reason. Theresa May, having read the EU’s terms has fought back, insisting that we must have greater freedom than the EU wants to allow us after Brexit.  She apparently intends to oppose the EU’s terms for citizen’s rights and any thought of us being a passive recipient of EU law but with no say in its formulation. The terms are so harsh, as we have stated, that it would have been unacceptable for Mrs May to have rolled over. Already there is much backbench disquiet over the EU’s proposals. Hopefully all MPs will have read the document produced by the European Commission dated 7th February and in particular, the chilling words in the first paragraph of Page 5:- “For the purposes of the Treaties, during the transition period, the parliament of the United Kingdom shall not be considered to be a national parliament.

Of course, Mrs May presides over a split cabinet. Our friends in Fishing for Leave recently commented on the struggles which Michael Gove has faced merely for wanting the UK to take control of its fishing policy after Brexit. That such a battle even needed to be fought is a cause for concern.

Recalcitrant cabinet members cannot, however, take the blame for Mrs May’s proposed speech in Munich next Saturday where she will give a speech including a  declaration that the UK will continue to participate in the European Arrest Warrant as well as retaining its Europol membership.  Mind you, like much of Mrs May’s Brexit strategy, this may well amount to wishful thinking as it’s not up to us whether we remain participants in these two schemes. Last November, Michel Barnier said that we would be ejected from Europol as it was only open to EU member states. Our ejection was the “logical consequence of the sovereign choice made by the British.” Unlike our team. M. Barnier is not known for changing his stance on key issues, so Mrs May’s speech next Saturday may turn out to be  empty rhetoric.

Indeed, we hope it is so for otherwise, she will face yet more fully-deserved criticism from her MPs. Jacob Rees-Mogg, first off the mark as usual, has reiterated his long-standing opposition to any further UK involvement with this flawed scheme. Regular visitors to this website will be in no doubt about the Campaign for an Indepndent Britain’s opposition to any ongoing participation in the EAW, Europol or the EU Gendarmerie – and we will continue to campaign on this issue if we are not pre-empted by M. Barnier rendering our efforts unnecessary. We fail to understand why Mrs May, Amber Rudd or anyone else wants to keep us locked into our current unsatisfactory relationship with the deeply flawed inquisitorial criminal justice systems of most EU member states.

On a different note, readers will be familiar with our reporting of the pathetic behaviour of the remoaners. It  seems that a small minority of them have touched a new low. At least six major backers of the Leave campaign have received identical death threats. The wording is quite chilling:- “You have stoked the fires of Brexit and led us to this moment. You can no longer be tolerated. We are coming for you. We are going to kill you.” The group sending these letters calls itself “the Real 48 per cent” and has also targeted Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom.

We would be the first to point out that the vast majority of remain voters, including most of those who sincerely believe that we should remain in the EU, would not remotely condone this sort of intimidation. Indeed, this shadowy group’s title is misleading in the extreme. They only speak for a minute fraction of the 48% of voters who supported remain.  The reality is that most voters on both sides of the debate actually care very little about Brexit any more.  As one writer put it, most people just wish that, as an issue, it would just go away.

So indeed would we, but not until we have achieved full independence – and this includes freedom from the EAW and Europol, full control over who fishes in our Exclusive Economic Zone and a relationship with the EU which is far looser and completely free of the subservience of the proposed transitional agreement.

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.

Mr Davis’ Brexit bridge to nowhere

Some of us will no doubt remember learning the song Sur le pont d’Avignon in our French classes at school. If you are careful, the bridge in question, the Pont St. Bénézet, may be a possible venue for dancing, as the song suggests, but it no longer fills its original function of providing a crossing of the River Rhône as only four of the original 22 arches, which date from approximately 1345AD, are still extant. When the river flooded, the arches tended to collapse and by the 17th century, the authorities gave up their attempts to repair the damaged masonry, leaving its four surviving arches as a bridge to nowhere.

David Davis is now engaged in a hard sell, trying to convince MPs and the general public that his proposed transitional deal is a stepping stone to full severance from the EU. He called it a  “bridge to the future.” If this deal is agreed by our parliament and the EU, nothing could be a less accurate description. Like the Pont St Bénézet in Avignon, it is a bridge to nowhere.

Those Tory MPs making a statement on these lines (and there have been some recently who have use somewhat different terminology to say the same thing) have been denounced as “swivel-eyed” by Claire Perry, the energy minister. The uncomfortable reality is that from what we know of the terms of this deal, it is nothing less than an unmitigated disaster.

We can start with the words of the Brexit secretary himself. Here is his speech. He talks about “strictly time limited implementation period,” yet not only did Mr Davis not specifically mention 21 months but already, rumours are circulating that it may be extended to last for three years.

And during this period, for all Mr Davis’ evasive language and hard-selling, yes, Jacob Rees-Mogg is correct, we would be a vassal state of the EU with no representation yet forced to accept all its laws. Our friends in Fishing for Leave have analysed both Davis’ speech and the EU’s terms for the implementation (aka transitional) period. You can read the analysis of the speech here and a summary of the Commission’s recommendations to the EU council about the terms and conditions for the transitional arrangements here.

The European Council has now (today 29th January) published an annex to its guidelines of 29th April 2017 which covers the transition period. You can read the document here and an analysis of it here. “Vassal State” sums it up well. In case anyone is in any doubt, Clause 13 insists that during the transition period, “The Union acquis should apply to and in the United Kingdom as if it were a Member State. Any changes to the Union acquis should automatically apply to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period.” We’ve got to accept the whole caboodle and we don’t have any say in what may come our way. Davis assured the Select Committee that it takes a long time for new EU laws to pass through the system so it was unlikely that anything which was still only in the pipeline on Brexit Day would actually get through onto our statute books at the end of the transitional period. This is wishful thinking, The Common Fisheries Policy was rushed through in three months in order to be in force when the UK joined in 1973.

The Council document also denies us the right to sign any trade deals during the transition period without the EU’s permission. Clause 16 states:- “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 Council document interestingly did not repeat the Commission’s refusal for us to piggyback on any deals which it has signed with third countries. Clause 14 of the Commission document was  unequivocal: “It is also recalled that as from the date of its withdrawal from the Union the United Kingdom will no longer benefit 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.” In other words, we would have to agree not to ask the countries in question if they still wished to keep the same trading arrangements with the UK. We would essentially be under “WTO rules” with the rest of the world. Is its absence a “concession?”

Whatever, we would be stuck in the EU’s customs Union. As we have mentioned countless times before, if we are in the Single Market, there is NO NEED to be in the Customs Union. The two are NOT joined at the hip. “Davis, come here, you bad boy. Your punishment is 100 lines; write out the following until the message sinks in:- we do not need to be in the EU’s customs union after Brexit. “

Add to this an insistence that the ECJ will have an ongoing role in the UK’s affairs (Clause 10 of the Council document) and a continuation of free movement of people (Clause 16). The Council document only briefly mentions the EU budget (Clause 17) but the Commission’s insistence on a payment into the EU’s coffers which is little different from our current payments as a member state appears to be implied.

Naturally, during this transition period, we will be subject to the Common Fisheries Policy (see Clause 21 of the Council Document) which is a disaster. Indeed, if it is extended beyond the current 21-month period, there will be very little left of our fishing industry, which would be catastrophic given that Fishing for Leave’s proposals would have turned the UK into a world leader in fisheries management and would have revived our coastal communities.

What is more, any concessions made to the EU in any transitional deal cannot easily be revoked when it is replaced by a long-term arrangement. Because this “transition” is part of a new treaty AFTER Article 50 terminates the current relationship, and because we will have agreed to replicate and adopt all EU laws, we will create a “continuity of rights” under Article 30 and Article 70 of the Vienna Convention. As this new transition treaty will not terminate with a clinical Article 50 clause where “the treaties (& obligations) cease to apply”, the EU will have grounds to argue that because we undid Article 50 and re-adopted the entire Acquis with no clear exit clause that their rights and obligations established under the transition treaty should continue past 21 months.

The EU may be eventually proved wrong to argue so, but protracted litigation on what is a grey area of international treaty law could tie this country in knots and quickly erode the minuscule resistance within the British establishment to concede to any EU demands.

To say therefore that this transitional arrangement is unacceptable, even if by some miracle a new deal could be signed in 21 months with no continuity, is hardly the language of “swivel-eyed loons.” It is merely stating what over 17 million people voted for in June 2016 – in other words, we must leave the European Union. Adopting the transitional terms on the basis of the Commission and Council documents would be like having a dance on Pont St Bénézet in Avignon – once the fun is over, your only choice is to walk off the bridge at exactly the same place where you walked on. In other words, we would not be out of the EU in any meaningful sense of the term – not in 2019, not in 2021, maybe not ever. It is a complete surrender – the worst of all worlds. The sooner the likes of Claire Perry, David Davis and indeed Theresa May realise this, the better.  If they don’t, their party will face the wrath of voters all too soon and could find itself in the middle of its worst crisis since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Thankfully one MP has realised this. His colleagues need to  wake up quickly. It really is that serious.

 

Photo by Dano

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.