The great Brexit fisheries betrayal – it gets worse

Michael Gove and Theresa May between them are letting down our fishing industry when there is no need for them to do so. It seems that our Prime Minister is willing to sacrifice the livelihoods of thousands of men to save her skin after finding herself outplayed by the EU.

The parallels between Mrs May and her predecessor are becoming more apparent by the day. When David Cameron headed for Brussels to re-negotiate our membership in late 2015, it does appear that he genuinely believed that he could wring concessions out of the other 27 member states and come back with a deal which would be acceptable to the majority of the electorate. However, he set off with no well-thought out model in mind of how the UK could function in a semi-detached manner from Brussels – still within the EU but somehow pursuing a different path. Unsurprisingly, he got nowhere, only gaining a few minor cosmetic concessions rightly described by Jacob Rees-Mogg as “thin gruel“. Undeterred, Cameron ploughed on, tried to avoid admitting that his renegotiations had got nowhere, lost the referendum and resigned.

For Cameron’s “renegotiation”, read Theresa May’s “deep and special” relationship. From the start, it was based on wishful thinking with no clear idea either of the details of the relationship nor – and more  importantly – of how the EU works. Optimism that a trade deal would be easy to agree because of regulatory convergence soon dissipated as Michel Barnier repeatedly spelt out the EU’s intention to preserve the single market at all costs. Mrs May may not have realised what being a “third country” meant when she took over as Prime Minister and it is conceivable that the full implications still haven’t dawned on her, but she has been told in no uncertain terms that the EU is not going to give its former member preferential treatment.

What is more, having offered us thoroughly humiliating terms for any transitional period, the EU is already starting to talk tough about a final trading arrangement. All the indications are that in the critical area of fishing, she will roll over once again.

Just to remind ourselves, both Michael Gove and Mrs May consistently stated that we would leave the Common Fisheries Policy on 29th March 2019 and take back control of our Exclusive Economic Zone. However, the transitional deal does no such thing and both the Prime Minister and Mr Gove have been put on the defensive. Even after admitting that he had tamely surrendered on fishing, Mr Gove, questioned by the Lib Dem MP Alastair Carmichael, said:-

“There is a significant prize at the end of the implementation period, and it is important that all of us in every area accept that the implementation period is a necessary step towards securing that prize. For our coastal communities, it is an opportunity to revive economically. For our marine environment, it is an opportunity to be managed sustainably. It is critical that all of us, in the interests of the whole nation, keep our eyes on that prize.”

Other awkward questions have been deflected by saying “But we want to leave the CFP – and indeed the EU;  you don’t” or words to that effect. It is a smokescreen to disguise the betrayal of our fishermen. It is a complete myth that if we can endure 21 months of EU control of fisheries, all will be wonderful at the end of transitional period.  The EU’s new discard ban means that any fishermen who has used up his quota for just one species may not fish again that year. Fishing for Leave has not hid its anger. it intends to “mobilise and show our absolute disgust and heartbreak at our own government capitulating and sacrificing Britain’s fishing grounds and coastal communities to continued EU mismanagement.” Watch this space!

Of course, there is an element of points scoring by the other political parties who are making the most of the government’s discomfort on this subject, but it would be wrong to say that MPs like the SNP’s Brendan O’Hara of Argyll and Bute was acting purely from cynical motives when he said, “I strongly advise the Prime Minister to read SNP fishing policy before she comments on it, as she has it spectacularly wrong. Will she explain to the fishing communities of Argyll and Bute why she has agreed to a deal that keeps them in the CFP without a voice? Is that not the worst possible deal that her Government could have achieved for our fishing communities?”

He is quite correct – it is the worst possible deal. What has been overlooked by many commentators on this subject is the draft exit document contains the following in Article 125 part 4: “Without prejudice to article122(1) , the relative stability keys for the allocation of fishing opportunities referred to in paragraph 1 of this article shall be maintained.”

(Paragraph 1 relates to article 43(3) TFEU : The Council, on a proposal from the Commission, shall adopt measures on fixing prices, levies, aid and quantitative limitations and on the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities.)

The relative stability keys are an allocation percentage per EU country by species for the sharing out of the quotas. The paragraph above makes it clear that EU can change them, allowing them to take what they like out of UK waters. In that case, it will be of little consequence whether or not the EU  insists on access to UK waters as part of a long-term trade deal. there will be no fishing industry left in our country anyway.

Yet all Mrs May can say in the face of rising cross-party anger about the sell-out of our fishing industry is, by implication, to criticise the fishermen. She said “Although I recognise that not everyone will welcome the continuation of current trading terms for another ​21 months, such an implementation period has been widely welcomed by British business because it is necessary if we are to minimise uncertainty and deliver a smooth and successful Brexit.” Who else could she be referring to when mentioning those who will not welcome 21 months of the current trading terms?  Fishermen can clearly be sacrificed to keep everyone else happy. She also dodged a question from Jeremy Corbyn when he raised the subject as one of a number of questions about the government’s change of  tack over Brexit:-

Our coastal and fishing communities were told by the Environment Secretary only this month: “The Prime Minister has been clear: Britain will leave the CFP”— common fisheries policy— “as of March 2019.” Just a few weeks later, we find out that that will not be the case”, he said. The Prime Minister replied to some of his other comments but studiously ignored the issue of fishing.  

Our friends in Fishing for Leave have many years of campaigning experiences and do not intend to roll over.  Do not be deceived by the support from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation for this deal. This organisation represents those who have bought quota, not ordinary fishermen, who are absolutely livid.

It is possible that fishing could be the issue which provokes the crisis we have long been expecting. To repeat what we said then,   “it may require some senior heads to roll if the transitional blind alley is to be averted. it is a case of holding on to your hats.” Indeed; a Brexit which throws away what could have been a success story and sacrifices  thousands of UK jobs is no Brexit at all.

Welcome Intervention from Mr Gove & Ms Davidson Needs Clarity

Fishermen’s organisation Fishing for Leave strongly welcomed Mr Gove and Ms Davidson’s words but say more clarity is needed and the government needs to stop playing semantics.

Michael Gove and Ruth Davidson’s interventions come days after it seemed that senior government figures would fail to rebuff the EUs demand that a condition of a Free Trade Agreement is continuation of; “existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources”.

Mr Gove and Mrs Davidson stated their commitment that;

“As we leave the EU, we want the UK to become an independent coastal state, negotiating access annually with our neighbours….. the Prime Minister has been clear: Britain will leave the CFP as of March 2019”.

Fishing for Leave says it is welcome that both have lent their support to this but say where this turns south and these statements can ring hollow is they are impossible to fulfil if fishing is trapped in a transition and clarity is needed on this.

They it is an admission that fishing will be in a transition in the words;

“during the implementation period we will ensure that British fishermen’s interests are properly safeguarded.”

Alan Hastings of FFL said “It’s stating the obvious that the UK will officially “leave” the CFP on March 2019 as our membership ceases under Article 50. However, the transition means re-obeying all EU law after we leave meaning Brexit In Name Only (BRINO)”.

“During a transition the EU can enforce any detrimental legislation to cull the UK fleet which makes the pledge to safeguard British fishermen and a bright future academic and hollow”.

“There’s been well publicised representations to the government and MPs that being trapped in a transition will see a large proportion of the UK fleet culled under forthcoming inept EU policy that is already agreed”.

“This would allow the EU to use international law (Article62.2 of UNCLOS) to claim the “surplus” resources the UK would no longer have the fleet capacity to catch”.

“So why does the government stop playing semantics and clearly state in unequivocal terms not that we ‘leave the CFP’ but that there will be no continuation of it in any way shape or form post 2019?”

“Until that assurance is forthcoming everything else is a PR exercise playing on words that folk are getting sick fed up with regards Brexit”.

WELCOME COMMENT ON RESOURCES MUST BE ACHIEVED

FFL commend sboth Mr Gove and Ms Davidson for reinforcing that “we agree we must deliver a fairer allocation for the British fleet in our own waters”.  This echoes the PMs speech of “fairer allocation of fishing opportunities for the UK fishing industry.”

Fishing for Leave highlighted that under international law and ‘zonal attachment’ a nation is entitled to a proportion of any shared stocks based on the abundance of that stock in its waters.

Alan continued; “We hope and look forward to Mr Gove and Defra publicising that a “fair share” is no less than the 750,000 tons of fish the EU catches in British waters every year that are rightfully ours in exchange for the 90,000 tons we catch in theirs”.

“Anything less than fulfilling the government’s commitment to work under international law and therefore this international premise of zonal attachment would see a token gesture towards fairer shares”.

It’s music to hear senior politicians acknowledge and advocate that “We believe it is vital that we regain control over our own fisheries management…. we both agree that our fishing industry stands to benefit from our departure from the common fisheries policy”

“It is vital that the opportunity of repatriating the 60% of the fish the EU catches in British waters, which could double the British fishing industry’s worth to £6-8bn every year, is achieved”.

“FFL looks forward to the government substantiating the welcome whispers from Defra that new UK policy will give fair opportunity to all fishermen under a more sustainable management system to see the dividend of repatriating our waters help to rejuvenate coastal communities”.

“This is needed to replace the environmentally disastrous CFP which has forced consolidation to ever fewer boats and ports but if it is vital to regain control and they recognise fishing an benefit why trap fishing in a transition for 21months where the EU can move the goal posts?”

STILL NO REBUTTAL OF TRADING FISHING FOR TRADE DEALS

There is still no rebuttal to the PMs speech and Philip Hammond’s suggestion on agreeing shares and access to UK waters as a giveaway for a wider deal.

The PM said;

As part of a new economic partnership we want to continue to work with the EU to manage shared stocks in a sustainable way and to agree reciprocal access to waters

This statement and Hammond’s comments openly state that fishing will be tied and sacrificed as negotiating capital for a new economic partnership.

All this flies in the face of Mr Gove and George Eustice’s earlier comments at an EFRA Select Committee that fishing access and resources wouldn’t be tied to wider trade negotiations.

It’s time for the government to come out fighting to unequivocally succeed on this “acid test” by clearly saying there will be continuation or any ties to the CFP after March 2019 and that we really will take back control.

EU Turns Up The Heat: Threatens to ‘Punish’ British Fishermen

Press release from Fishing for Leave

Fishing for Leave lambasted comments made in the Danish Media following the visit of EU Chief negotiator Michel Barnier to Denmark’s main fishing port Thyboron, saying; “You can keep your “Harshness!! – International law confers Britain full sovereignty and control over all our waters and resources!”

– EU Fishermen say; “Brexit has incredibly big impact on our company and all of Denmark’s fisheries. We rely on getting into British waters, he says, saying that 85 percent of the catch of the species of sand eel caught in Thyborøn takes place in British waters”.

Fishing for Leave spokesman Alan Hastings said; “As much as no British fishermen wishes personal ill on other fishermen, where were the EU tears when our resources robbed and communities decimated?”

“Does no one in the EU feel guilty that you built a future for the EU industry on robbing UK coastal communities of theirs?”

“Time for Michael Gove robustly to defend UK interests so we can rejuvenate our communities that were sacrificed with a detrimental deal that benefited the EU”.

Britain has the formal opportunity under international law to stop fishermen from Denmark and other EU countries fishing in British waters post-Brexit.

But fishermen in the EU, along with Michel Barnier, say such a decision could also have a negative impact on British fishing.

They say the EU would look to close EU markets to force Britain to continue current shares and access that see’s EU vessels catch EIGHT times more fish in UK waters as UK vessels do in EU waters 780,000 tons vs 90,000 tons.

“When it comes to fishing, we will talk about the topics that are directly related. Our access to British waters and their access to our market”, said the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier aboard the fisherman Meilsø when he visited fishermen in Thyborøn today (3rd March 18).

 “Monsier Barnier made it clear that there will be a negotiation with EU fishermen’s access to fishing in British waters and allowing British fishermen to sell their products on the EU’s internal market” says DR’s correspondent Ole Ryborg.

At this point, according to Ryborg’s Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen the Danish government; “will help Barnier to be harsh in negotiations with Britain in the fishing industry”.

Fishing for Leave responded to the threat by pointing out that the EU markets dependency on UK fish exports combined with EU losing the ability to catch 60% of the fish in UK waters would only increase EU markets necessity on UK fish.

Alan Hastings from FFL said “What the EU thinks is a position of strength is actually a weakness and that is their dependency on our resources as a critical part of their food supply”.

“This is no different from the cod wars when British vessels lost access to Norwegian and Icelandic grounds but almost immediately UK processors on Humberside started to import fish direct from Norway”.

“Remainers and the EU cite tariffs but when the cost of tariffs is weighed against the £3-4bn worth of resources which we can repatriate this offsets tariffs by a huge margin as UK fishermen will be able to land more of what they are otherwise forced to discard”

Alan concluded “Michel Barnier’s comments are a shot across the bow and the battle to restore our sovereignty & governance of UK waters is very much alive!

“Will the government capitulate to EU demands or stand up for British coastal communities and not use them as an ‘expendable’ bargaining chip for 2nd time in the face of EU belligerence?

“The big question for Michel Barnier is, why should the EU get continued access? The UK provides 50% of waters but EU relative stability only gives us 25% of our fish”.

“Fishing is massively important to UK communities too and the CFP has been an economic, social & environmental disaster. Brexit also allows environmentally and economically decent UK policy where we become equal of Norway & Iceland.”

“Taking back control is an “acid test” Michael Gove for this government in coastal constituencies. Will the government hold fast or face electoral oblivion in areas like Cornwall, Kent, East Anglia, Yorkshire and the NE of Scotland?”

The Beginning of the End for Britain’s Fishing?

Fishermen’s Organisation Fishing for Leave highlight that the leaked (and soon after published) Government DRAFT TEXT FOR DISCUSSION: IMPLEMENTATION PERIOD detailing the Government position on the Transition deal show a deliberate effort to fashion Brexit in name only.

The group accuses the government of engineering terms that fly in the face of the biggest democratic instruction in British history.

The document says the government believes-

The UK believes this document demonstrates that there is broad alignment between the UK and EU positions, with only a small number of areas requiring discussion.

Has enraged most Brexiteers who see this as a brazen confession that the government sees “broad alignment in position” as an admission the government is prepared to capitulate what they see as the EUs stringent transition terms.

The Terms of the transition as that although the UK will have officially left the EU and no longer be a member the UK will re-agree to obey all EU law after we leave. Many back bench brexiteers with Jacob Rees-Mogg heading them say Britain would be reduced to being some sort of ‘vassal state’.

Fishing for Leave say the document is a sneaky admission of the disastrous situation the government are digging not only fishing but the country as a whole

NOTES
The official terms in Article X+4 – Specific arrangements relating to Fisheries Policy – say;

[Paragraph 1] As regards the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities … for any period prior to the end of the Period (i.e. the transition), the EU and the UK shall agree the fishing opportunities related to the UK prior to the decision-making process within the Council. The United Kingdom shall participate alongside the EU and other coastal States in international fisheries negotiations.

The changes to paragraph [1] are to clarify the need for agreement between the UK and the EU with regards fishing opportunities during the (transition) Period, in advance of the formal processes at the December Fisheries Council, in which the UK will no longer have voting rights. The changes also reflect the consequences of the UK’s status as a third country for participation in negotiations with other coastal states.

They say that the text above is an admission that the government has to engineer an arrangement to allow the UK as a non-EU member but an independent coastal state to surrender its fisheries resources and waters to the EU as part of a transition deal where we must obey the CFP of “equal access to a common resource”.

Many Brexit groups have highlighted because the UK is would not be a member of the EU it cannot be officially recognised by other non-EU nations as being party to deals they have with the EU.

Fishing for Leave cites that this would work in reverse on fisheries As the UK will no longer officially be an EU member the EU cannot officially act or speak on behalf of the UK in international agreements – such as international fisheries agreements

Alan Hastings FFLs spokesman said “Saying the UK and EU will participate at international negotiations is a way to ensure the UK signs off whatever the EU tells us. We then return home and have to surrender our resources to the common EU pot to be divided out under the same grotesquely unfair shares of the CFP to obey the transition arrangements between us and the EU”

“To give some sort of context as a rough legal comparison think of a husband (the EU) and wife (the UK)”.

“Although they are married (i.e. the transition deal) it is a matter of fact the wife (the UK) is a person/country in her/our own right (a coastal state). The husband (the EU) cannot sign for the wife (the UKs) inheritance (fisheries resources agreed international)”.

“However, as they are married (transition deal) once the inheritance (fisheries resources agreed internationally) are concluded the inheritance (our fish) belongs and is divided between their common household where the EU under the terms of the CFP only gives us half of what should otherwise be solely ours”.

FFL say this is why the government has made this provision and shrouded it in opaque wording.

NOTE
This is why DEFRAs official statement to the press when questioned below goes all fuzzy at the end.

Our proposal makes clear that when the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, we will become an independent coastal state. The Treaties will no longer apply, we will no longer be a Member State, and we will leave the Common Fisheries Policy. 

“Our proposal means that during the implementation period we will sit alongside other Coastal States as equal partners in international annual quota negotiations. 

“We are expecting more detailed discussions on the text with the EU. The details of how this apply will be discussed there.”

Alan Hastings said on DEFRAs statement; “Yes, unequivocally, as a legal matter of fact, when we are an independent coastal state this confers the right to sit at the table and exercise sovereignty over our resources as the statement admits”.

“What the statement then fails to highlight is the government has built a mechanism to facilitate selling us out where we can surrender our waters and resources to the EU as part of the terms of the transition deal where we must obey the CFP thereafter – that is what is key”.

“The disgracefulness of this is amplified because they know and recognise that we will be an independent country but have deliberately contrived and decided to throw all that away to be trapped in the CFP. To sell our resources and fishermen out to the EU again but with just a different legal underpinning”.

“It is nothing short of evil, calculated maliciousness hid behind deliberately opaque wording and a PR exercise – those within the establishment who ore engineering something so heinous need to be called out”.

All fishermen’s representative bodies are aghast at the transition saying it could be used to finish of the UK fleet.  They question why fishing needs to be in a transition at all when the government recognises that we can walk away and be an independent coastal state with full control over all our waters and resources.

They are angry that the government failed to back Michael Gove’s and George Eustice’s calls to not include fishing in a transition and to leave the disastrous CFP entirely on 29th March 2019.

Alan Hastings concluded “We fear that the powers that be have laid the ground work to sacrifice Britain’s fishermen and coastal communities to continued demise trapped in the CFP where we will be another British industry consigned to museum and memory”.

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.

The complexities of plastic bags

Do you dislike the UK’s “throwaway” culture? Do you share the Daily Mail‘s concern about the damage with plastic waste is doing to our coastlines and oceans? If so, you will probably be pleased to know that since the introduction of the 5p charge on plastic bags in supermarkets in 2016, single plastic bag use has dropped dramatically – by as much as 90% according to some sources.

Now the 5p charge is being extended. Small outlets (defined as those with less than 250 employees) will lose their exemption and will have to start charging for plastic bags too, most likely before the end of the year.

While most of us must surely be delighted if there are fewer discarded plastic bags cluttering up our roadsides, the issue isn’t quite that straightforward.

Firstly, it exposes the complexities of political life for politicians like Michael Gove, the current Secretary of State for the Environment. Gove has traditionally been labelled “Centre Right“, which has historically meant a supporter of small government.  You would think, therefore, that although he was apparently “haunted” by the amount of plastic which is polluting our oceans, he would look to find a solution which is more free market and less statist than the introduction of what is, in effect, another tax.

This, however, is far from the only complexity which has been raised in this war on plastic. When the initial legislation bringing in the 5p charge was introduced, nowhere did it mention that it has its origins in an EU directive. Not once does the 2015 Bill mention the EU or the Directive, according to the EU Observer. Perhaps, claims the author, Gove “may want to portray the success of the 5p charge as a domestic affair”.   For sure, given that the original legislation pre-dated the Brexit vote, the omission of any mention of the EU cannot have been as a result of wishing to downplay the EU’s role for fear of boosting its popularity and thus undermining the case for Brexit. More likely, as the writer suggests, in these days when politicians are eager to emphasise their “green credentials”, it is more a case that Michael Gove or perhaps even Theresa May are wanting people to make assumptions that the 5p tax is their idea, given that the war on plastic is largely seen as a good thing.

In a sense, the EU Observer is making something of a mountain out of a molehill. Although the writer is upset by the reluctance of UK parliament and politicians to acknowledge the EU’s role in the war on plastic, preferring to claim the credit themselves, as one astute observer has put it, without the UK’s influence, much of the EU’s environmental legislation would never have got off the ground in the first place:-  “all the current EU countryside environmental schemes have their origins in UK policy goals and schemes.”

And finally, to anyone who now feels uncomfortable now they realise that a development which they considered beneficial had its origins in Brussels, it is worth remembering that even the most odious of political régimes occasionally do good things. For instance, Germany is rightly proud of its Autobahn network and while the oldest section of it dates from the late 1920s, its most significant and dramatic period of expansion, from a mere 108km to 3,736km took place between 1935 and 1940 because of one man’s far-sighted recognition of the value of a nationwide high speed road network. His name was Adolf Hitler.

Photo by oparrish