Fisheries part 7- Historic rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are militarily unsafe within the EU

A letter from our President, George West, to the Leicester Mercury

Shirt-sleeved Prime Minister Cameron is touring our country trying to kid us all that we are safer within the European Union.

 

Does he never learn from history? Has he forgotten the Falklands war? Has he forgotten NATO? Has he forgotten the Commonwealth troops coming to our aid in the past?

 

We were betrayed by two of our European Union “allies” during the Falklands war.The French sent a team of technicians to tune and prime five French Exocet missiles they had sold to Argentina. Without those technicians, those missiles would have remained harmless.

 

The missiles were used against our navy and soldiers. HMS Sheffield was hit ( 20 British killed). Two missiles were launched against HMS Glamorgan hit (13 British killed). Another missile hit our supply ship Atlantic Convoy (12 British killed). Other British sailors and soldiers were left injured and disfigured by our EU “friends” and British families left to grieve.

 

If that wasn’t enough, the Belgians refused to supply us with artillery and small arms ammunition for the weapons that Belgium had sold to us.

 

I rest my case, Mr Cameron, when some of your friends become our enemies

 

George West

Photo by Ben Sutherland

Safer inside the EU? A letter to Mr Cameron from our President

Dear Mr. Cameron,

As an ex-soldier, I am angry when I hear you and Generals talking about our country being safer inside the European Union.

The CEO of Europol states that there are between 3000 and 5000 battle trained terrorists already inside Europe. With free movement across EU borders they can slip into the UK. Some probably already are here. How does that make us safer?

But have you forgotten history? Even within the European Union, two of our European allies cheated on us during the Falklands War and a high price was paid by British soldiers and sailors and their families.

On 5th March 2012, the BBC broadcast the evidence that they had found that the French helped Argentina sink our ships with French technicians helping to prepare French Exocet missiles.

The French Exocet was the most potent weapon in Argentine’s armoury, carrying a 165kg warhead skimming at high speed one or two metres above the sea. They only showed up on radar a few seconds before impact.

One hit HMS Sheffield leaving 20 British dead.

Another hit the supply ship Atlantic Conveyor leaving 12 British dead.

Two were launched against HMS Glamorgan leaving 13 British dead.

Most of these missiles would have been duds without the help of the French technical team.

If that wasn’t enough, having purchased rifles for the British army from Belgium, the Belgians refused to sell us artillery and small arms ammunition in the Falklands war.

When it comes to money and profit how can we trust what you say when history warns us differently?

I look forward to your reply bearing in mind that it is NATO that is supposed to keep us safer and not the EU. The British people want to hear truthful facts when deciding whether they prefer to be governed by our Parliament and our Courts or by the European Union.

Please do not try to suggest that should the UK leave the EU, Europol and other crime agencies would sever links with the UK and our intelligence services or us with them.

Finally I would like to remind you that I swore Allegiance, not to the European Union, not to the British government but to Her Majesty the Queen.

Yours sincerely,
George West

formerly 67th Regiment Royal Artillery

European Electorates reject the EU

Among the European Union’s (EU’s) ruling élite, concern is growing as their EU superstate project – to merge the nations of Europe into a federal superstate governed largely by unelected bureaucrats – continues to unravel. Across Europe, disillusioned electorates are responding against this cruel reality being imposed without their consent.

In this country, Prime Minister David Cameron has begrudgingly agreed to a referendum which gives the electorate the opportunity to leave the EU and for the UK to regain independence, sovereignty and democracy. The EU’s increasingly disastrous mistakes, however, are worrying voters in other countries too. Ironically, it is not just in the South of Europe, where a generation and more of young and old have been made unemployed and without hope by misguided EU policies, notably the straitjacket of the Euro, but in the North and the former Eastern bloc countries where enthusiasm for the EU is crumbling.

Danes retain “Opt-Outs” from EU control
In December, the Danish electorate rejected their (pro EU) government’s proposal to end the country’s opt-out from EU domestic and judicial policies. Following its rejection of the Maastricht Treaty (extending the EU’s powers) in a referendum on June 2, 1992, Denmark obtained four “opt-outs” which pertained to the single currency, the EU’s foreign, security, domestic and judicial policies, as well as naturalization laws. Consequentially, Denmark has not joined the Euro, does not participate in the EU’s military policies, and has preserved a certain margin of manoeuvre for its domestic policies beyond EU directives. However, the ECJ has overruled Denmark’s EU agreements at least 79 times despite explicit agreement to the contrary!

This referenmdum delivered the “wrong result” as far as the vast majority of Denmark’s ruling élite was concerned. They still support their country’s complete submission to EU policy. This should come as no surprise. Mr Cameron and our ruling élite take a similar line here – namely, EU rule for their own benefits, not for us, the people who voted them into office.

Euro exit by Finland?
In Finland, the EU project is also becoming increasingly unpopular, thanks largely to problems with the economy. Although the UK’s recovery from the Great Recession has been rather sluggish, at least we have been out of recession for several years now. By contrast, Finnish GDP has dropped 0.6 per cent in the last quarter of this year – more than in Greece. Finnish economists, looking to neighbouring Sweden and Denmark, point out that without the Euro, the crisis could have been prevented.

A citizen’s initiative, campaigning for a referendum on exiting the Euro, has garnered more than 50,000 signatures. Next year, the Finnish parliament must consequently debate returning to the Finnish Markka.

France – the charge of the ‘fringe’ Eurosceptics
The first round of France’s regional elections saw Marine le Pen’s Eurosceptic Front National top the polls in six of the country’s 13 regions and gain 28% of the overall vote – ahead of both the ruling Socialists and former President Sarkozy’s Les Républicains. In the Nord- Pas de Calais region, the FN polled over 40%. The two EU-fanatic establishment parties responded by creating an unholy alliance to keep the FN from power, with the socialists standing down in two regions and, encouraging their supporters to back ‘arch rival’ Sarkozy’s party. Voters may, however see there is little to choose between the two establishment parties, and many chose to vote for Mme le Pen.

France’s system of having a two-stage election prevented the FN gaining power in any region and will prove an even greater obstacle to winning the Presidency in 18 or so months’ time. However, Marine le Pen’s alleged “dédiabolisation” of the party since replacing her controversial father as leader has paid off. Her party may still be seen as a pariah by the leadership of two establishment parties, but much less so by voters. Although she failed to win a region, she gathered over 6 million votes. Whether it still is a “nasty party” is impossible to judge, especially given the enthusiasm of some sections of the media to apply the “far right” label indiscriminately to any political party with an ideology any major distance to the right of Jeremy Corbyn or Josef Stalin.

It is clear, however, that the FN’s anti-EU stance along with its calls to return to the Franc, for tighter controls on immigration and the need for a more cohesive society are clearly seen as necessary by many French voters and economists.

Eastern European and German worries
Pegida, the anti-Islamification movement in Germany, has enjoyed a renaissance since the attacks in Paris. Indeed, Pegida has spawned similar groups in other countries, including the Czech Republic where the country’s president Miloš Zeman spoke at a meeting of a political action group called ‘Bloc Against Islam’. This is part of a trend in several former Soviet bloc countries, including Hungary and Poland, where parties from outside the pro-EU “mainstream” are either in power or are gaining support, with worries about immigration and Islam being major factors.

In the Spectator, Rod Liddle wrote perceptively about Europe’s ruling élites: “It is an irony that the liberals are being vanquished as a consequence of their support for that least liberal of ideologies, Islam.” The growing anti-establishment mood across Europe engendered by fears of terrorism and Islamification will do nothing to bolster support for the European Union, which disingenuously tries to portray itself as rooted in liberal democracy. There is no democracy in the EU whatsoever, as we all know.

In summary, if the voters in an increasing number of member states are either looking at parties other than the fanatical Europhile “mainstream” or else are turning away from “more Europe” altogether, for how long will they and their worries be ignored?

For how long will repressed Western Democracy stay subjugated? When will the tax revolt commence? When will the people cease to co-operate and the member countries cease to permit themselves to be so enslaved that they become ungovernable as they reject the tyranny of Brussels?

Expat worries are mistaken

The pro-independence movement is excited by the prospect of withdrawal. However, to secure that all-important “out” vote, it will be necessary to win over a good many people for whom the terms of the debate so far has made them anything but excited about the thought of “Brexit”. One such group is the expatriate community. Some of our compatriots living abroad are very concerned indeed.

The root of the problem is the strong language that has been used in the debate about immigration. For a number of voters, a desire to limit the number of people coming to the UK is the most important reason they would give for supporting withdrawal from the EU. Some of these people may have genuine concerns, such as suffering an increase in waiting times at their local GP’s surgery due to large numbers of migrants, or finding themselves undercut by Eastern European tradesmen willing to work for a pittance. Others may be xenophobes in the worst sense. For all the variety of reasons different people may give for their concerns, the net result is that there is considerable political capital to be made in talking tough on immigration, whether from the EU or elsewhere.

However, this cuts both ways. A substantial number of UK citizens live abroad – some 8% of our population, in fact. Most countries boasting large numbers of expatriate Brits are, unsurprisingly, Anglophone nations such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, but the prospect of a retirement in the sunnier climate of the Mediterranean has attracted large numbers of our fellow-countrymen too. Estimates vary, but it is possible that as many as 700,000 UK citizens are resident in Spain and 200-400,000 in France. Also growing in popularity is Bulgaria, which boasts a pleasant climate, incredibly cheap housing and, at least in the villages, a strong community spirit. At least 50,000 of our countrymen have chosen to relocate to this country whose own citizens are not exactly popular when they come over here. It’s not just retired people who have moved abroad. Berlin, hardly renowned for sea, sand and sunshine, was home to over 14,000 Brits at the end of 2012 – many of them young people attracted by a city that has developed a trendy image in recent years.

If freedom of movement of people were curtailed when we leave the EU, what would become of these people? As has already been pointed out on this website, misinformation stating that they would become “illegal immigrants” has been put about by no less an individual than Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General. As we pointed out, people who have acquired rights of residence will still have those rights whatever form of exit might ensue. They simply can’t be booted out. However, our blog isn’t reaching the areas it should, for a recent report suggests that a number of expats are so concerned about withdrawal thay they looking at acquiring dual citizenship to ensure they won’t end up stateless. Likewise, as the Guardian reported recently a number of EU citizens resident in the UK are considering similar action.

It would be a tragedy for the “out” campaign if immigration was to become the most dominant issue. It would mean that we would lose, point blank, and the blame lying with wishful thinking. Given that the most seamless exit route from the EU is via the EEA and EFTA, whatever some people might desire, we would still initially remain subject to all four freedoms of the Single Market, including free movement of people, so compulsory repatriation of EU residents just isn’t going to happen. Within the EEA, we need not allow the dependents of migrant workers from the EU to join them and if we feel we are struggling to cope with the number of EU citizens arriving here, there is the possibility of applying a temporary brake, as Liechtenstein has done. That is all. Furthermore, any long-term arrangement replacing the EEA agreement would inevitably want to ensure the preservation of vested rights – a fundamental principle of international law – allowing long-term residents to remain where they are. It is, of course, possible that independence may well result in substantial numbers of people voluntarily returning to their own country. Some expats, disillusioned with recent politics in the UK, may feel that independence offers a chance to put the country right and come home. Some EU citizens currently resident in the UK may decide that they do not wish to reside outside of the EU, even if they would not be treated any differently in an independent UK. However, we cannot be sure what will happen. Others clearly like it here and will want to stay, come what may. It is therefore better for them and for our own expatriate community if ALL supporters of withdrawal keep the focus on what really counts – the re-establishment of UK sovereignty – rather than allowing free movement of people to dominate the forthcoming campaign. Those who are uncomfortable with the current level of immigration will vote to leave regardless. Their votes are already in the bag. We need to focus on winning the votes of people who have other concerns and alienating our expat community for no sensible reason will do our cause no good.

For further comment on the Guardian Article, we recommend the latest article in the EU Referendum blog.

Germany v Greece – the next instalment

The EU, we are told, is a good thing because it has kept the peace in Europe over the past 70 years. It may be true that the nations of Western Europe have not been at war with one another since 1945 but, quite apart from the credit for peace truly belonging to NATO, the drive towards ever-closer union between the different member states has not by any means ended the tensions between them.

Two recent examples prove the point – one fairly trivial, the other far more serious. A minor tension recently erupted between France and Belgium over plans for a commemorative €2 coin marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. The battlefield is a few miles from Brussels and the idea to mark this event originated with the Belgians. However, French sensitivities knocked the idea on the head on the grounds that glorifying a time of conflict ran counter to efforts to foster European unity. Ironically, last year France issued a €2 coin last year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings. Maybe the real issue for the French is not so much European unity but the simple fact that at Waterloo, they lost!

Outside the Eurozone, the UK is not bound by the wishes of other countries and our £5 commemorative coin has already appeared. We actually had a choice of victories to commemorate, as this year also marks the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. Anyone with a detailed knowledge of the UK rail network would know that Handborough, the nearest station to Bladon church, where Churchill wished to be buried, is easiest reached from London’s Paddington station, but Churchill insisted that his funeral train was to depart from Waterloo as the very name would irritate his long-time nemesis General de Gaulle.

On a more serious note, the war of words between Germany and Greece has intensified in the last few days. Firstly, the Greek finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, accused his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schäuble, of calling him “naïve”, an accusation which Schäuble has emphatically denied. However, Greece’s Syriza-led government then poured fuel on the flames by raising the delicate matter of war reparations, seeking €341 billion from Germany to compensate for the behaviour of the Nazis during their occupation of Greece from 1941 to 1944. Germany has rejected these claims, saying the issue was dealt with in 1960, when a payment was made to the Greek government. Greece’s justice minister, Nikos Paraskevopoulos, then asserted that as Germany has refused to pay anything more, he is about to sign a court order allowing German property in Greece to be seized.

Where this is going to end up is anyone’s guess, but it looks like an amicable parting of the ways may be best for Greece and the Eurozone. Greece’s best chance of recovering from its financial woes is to follow Iceland’s example and default on its debts – a move which could only be accomplished outside the Eurozone. Greek public finances deteriorated during the four years the country was run by a government reasonably committed to the austerity programme demanded by its creditors. The country’s public debt to GDP ratio rose from 129.6% in 2010 to 174.9% between 2010 and 2014. Syriza wants to increase the tax-free allowance and spend more. The likelihood of any improvement in the public finances under the new government is therefore precisely zero. Indeed, Varoufakis has acknowledged the desperate plight his country faces. Greece is “the most bankrupt of any state,” he said, adding, “Clever people in Brussels, in Frankfurt and in Berlin knew back in May 2010 that Greece would never pay back its debts. But they acted as if Greece wasn’t bankrupt, as if it just didn’t have enough liquid funds.”

Statistics for January 2015 from the Greek finance ministry show that he is not exaggerating the plight his country faces. Income tax, which yielded €988 million in January 2014, brought in a paltry €519 million a year later, a drop of over 45% and barely half the €998 million target. VAT revenue also fell from €1,622 million to €1,329 million over the same period, whereas the target was an increase to €1,687 million. The fact that the Greek government managed to run a primary surplus for the month is an indication of the extent to which the austerity programme has forced it to scale back its public spending in order to satisfy its creditors. With public servants to pay and some substantial loan repayments due in a few months’ time, it is hard to see where the money is going to come from. In the past week a desperate search for cash has caused the Greek government to raid the bank deposits of pension funds while delaying payments to its creditors. It has even approached the Greek subsidiaries of multinational companies for short-term loans.

Things clearly are going to come to a head soon, especially as the Germans – both the government and the people at large – have no sympathy whatever for the problems of their fellow eurozone-member: “The Greek government is behaving as if everyone must dance to its tune. But there must be an end to this madness. Europe must not be made to look stupid,” said one German paper.

As a non-Eurozone member, we in the UK may feel that we are observing this tragedy as outsiders. However, Neil Woodford, the head of investment at Woodford Investment Management, a large firm in the City of London, believes that we cannot indefinitely continue to watch from the sidelines. “Ultimately, this country will have to make a choice about whether it is a fully signed-up member of a eurozone project or not,” he said. In other words, adopting the euro or withdrawal are the only long-term options. Whether we consider the curtailment of our freedoms to commemorate our victories over the French or our likely entanglement in the sport of spat going on between Greece and Germany at the moment, it’s pretty clear which would be the best alternative