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”.

Fishing for Leave’s comments on the proposed transitional arrangements

Below is the EUs recommendations for the transition. Those with the particular detrimental implications for the United Kingdoms trade are Clause 14 and 15 as amended by the Council. Indeed, the implications defeat the whole point of HM Governments raison-d’etre for a transition.

TRADE

14. During the transition period, and in line with the European Council guidelines of 29 April 2017, the United Kingdom will remain bound by the obligations stemming 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; while the United Kingdom should however no longer participate in any bodies set up by those agreements.

The Council replaced the words ‘will no longer benefit from’ with ‘will remain bound by the obligations stemming from’. It also deleted the words Where it is in the interest of the Union, the Union may consider whether and how arrangements can be agreed that would maintain the effects of the agreements as regards the United Kingdom during the transition period’.

The intention seems to be that the UK will still have obligations to the EU to apply agreements concluded with non-EU countries by the EU (or the EU jointly with its Member States).

However, since the withdrawal agreement cannot bind non-EU countries, those non-EU countries will no longer have obligations to the UK as the UK will no longer be an official member of the EU but merely maintaining regulatory alignment.

The UK would only be able to be recognised within such agreements if other non-Eu countries agree to continuing existing obligations in force.

The negotiation of treaties between the UK and non-EU countries is the subject of the next paragraph which seemingly makes that an impossible contradiction. 

15. In line with the European Council guidelines of 15 December 2017, any transitional arrangements require the United Kingdom’s continued participation in the Customs Union and the Single Market (with all four freedoms) during the transition. The United Kingdom should take all necessary measures to preserve the integrity of the Single Market and of the Customs Union. (full regulatory alignment is the only way to do so and this complies with Clause 49 of Phase 1 regards UK vs EU border on island of Ireland)

The United Kingdom should continue to comply with the Union trade policy. It should also in particular ensure that its customs authorities continue to act in accordance with the mission of EU customs authorities including by collecting Common Customs Tariff duties and by performing all checks required under Union law at the border vis-à-vis other third countries. 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 final sentence added by the Council. This paragraph ensures no change in the application of the single market or the customs union to the UK during the transitional period.

This limits the UK’s power to enter into treaties and subjects the UK to more constraints than it would have as a Member State.

The UK will not be free to negotiate and sign treaties within the transitional period, even if those treaties only come into force afterward – we will only be able to begin to negotiate treaties AFTER the transition period.

How will this allow the UK to sign a trade deal with the EU for post-transition as David Davis claims the transition is necessary to facilitate?

One has to ask how under the terms of Clause 15 the UK will be able to respond to Clause 14 where the UK (as a non-EU member) would have to seek recognition by other non-EU counties for the UK being party to agreements they have concluded with the EU.

One struggles to see how we can enable a continuation of any agreements the EU has concluded with the rest of the world as per Clause 14 yet still comply with Clause 15?

This revised text means they have amended Clause 14 to appear a lifeline that doesn’t actually attach to anything.

We take this contradiction to mean we are locked into the single market and customs union but if other non-Eu nations fail to recognize the UK being party to the agreements they concluded with the EU (as we’re no longer a member – merely maintaining regulatory alignment) and we are unable to pursue our own agreement with such other non-EU nation then we are on WTO with the rest of the world which defeats the point of a transition in the first place.

It would be interesting to hear the government and DexEUs response to how Britain can conclude a future “deep and special” trade deal with the EU under the transition as David Davis professes is required if Clause 15 bars us from concluding agreements…?!?

 

FISHING INDUSTRY

Clause 20 obliges the UK to “consult” on fishing opportunities in full respect of the Acquis – i.e. obey the entire CFP!

20. Specific consultations should also be foreseen with regard to for the (interesting change/use of language..?)  fixing of fishing opportunities during the transition period, in full respect of the Union acquis.

Therefore, the UK delegation would possible be allowed to sit in the room yet the UK will still be bound by the ENTIRE ACQUIS and therefore the entire CFP – Equal Access, Relative Stability Shares and Quota system.

A continuation of the quota system where fishermen have to discard in order to find the species their quota allows them to keep conjoined with a fully enforced discard ban will finish the UK fleet.

Under the discard ban rather than address the cause of the discard problem, that a quota system does not work in mixed fisheries, the symptom of discards is banned. Under the discard ban a vessel must stop fishing when it exhausts its smallest quota allocation – these “choke species” will bankrupt 60% of the UK fleet as detailed by the governments own figures through Seafish.

This would destroy our catching capacity and allowing the EU to claim the “surplus” of our resources we would no longer be able to catch under terms of UNCLOS Article 62.2 due to such a culling of our fleet.

Signing up to a transition on will see the ruination of what is left of the UK fishing industry when Brexit should be its salvation. Another 2 years of the CFP and a continuation of the quota system will see our fishing industry become yet another British industry consigned to museum and memory.

CONCLUSION

Under the auspices of this proposed “deal” (more a dictation) the UK will be on WTO with the rest of the world, unable to conclude deals with the rest of the world until after the transition and will be locked into maintaining regulatory alignment whilst obeying the entire Acquis (with continued freedom of movement) and trapped in the CFP where our fishing industry will be culled to make way for the EU fleet. All whilst being subject to the ECJ and ruled by the Commission and Council as some sort of vassal state.

It is nearly unbelievable that the political establishment could contemplate locking the 5th most powerful nation in the world into such a subservient position especially against the expressed wish of the British people to leave the EU in its entirety as voted for in the biggest vote in British history.

The European Union (withdrawal) Bill 2:- Power grab?

In the first article looking at the European Union Withdrawal Bill, we set out the principle behind it but pointed out that it was impossible for EU regulations and directives to be transferred verbatim onto out statute books. As an example, we used one of the shortest and indeed, most pointless of all Regulations,  the so-called “Cuddly Toy Sheep” Regulation 1462/2006.

The object of this regulation is pretty simple  – that the toy in question may be given the appropriate  classification code for customs purposes. If we were to use the same codes on Brexit and use similar customs checking processes, transposition of this law into domestic law ought to be pretty simple. We remove all references to the Commission, the Treaties and references to Member states, extract the important bits, find a new template, perhaps even using the relevant bits of a piece of pre-1973 legislation, change a few words here and there and Bob’s your uncle! All done.

Actually, no. The Regulation we have been using as an example cross-references another Regulation 2913/92. This reference will have to be changed. Then the regulation which is cross-referenced talks about the Community Customs Code. Even if we were to be as foolish as to seek some sort of customs union with the EU, which we argued was very unwise, this bit will need to be re-worked as the term “Community Customs Code” would not be appropriate to describe the customs arrangements of an ex-member state.

So it is quite apparent that even a simple piece of EU legislation which our Government may wish to retain in a way that it works after Brexit exactly as it did before will need to be re-written in places. Given that in October 2015, the EU acquis amounted to 23,076 pieces of legislation and has grown further since, it is very apparent that our teams of Civil Servants will have a massive task on their hands  if everything will be ready for Brexit day.

If this concept is relatively straightforward to explain, a more complex issue is concept of the superiority of EU law over domestic legislation.  Our accession to the European Union granted power to the EU to introduce or amend legislation superior over British law “without further enactment.” (These three words come verbatim from the European Communities Act 1972.) On leaving the EU, what status do EU laws have relative to earlier domestic legislation? This is not an easy question to answer, even if you are a lawyer.

The concern among both Opposition MPs and the devolved assemblies in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Northern Ireland is that a combination of the re-writing process and the complexity of any new relationship between legislation which originated in Westminster and that which was passed down to us from Brussels will actually change the make-up of our statute books without Parliament being consulted or even being aware.  In other words, the Government  will use the EU (Withdrawal) Bill as an opportunity to further its own political agenda without requiring Parliamentary scrutiny. It certainly does appear to  strengthen the hand of the executive, rather than Parliament, because of the delegated powers it contains.

At the heart of this so-called “power grab” is the use of the Statutory Instrument – a facility which, in certain situations allows the government to make or amend legislation without Parliament having he power to change or even debate it. Given that MPs are our elected representatives, the very existence of anything which allows the democratic process to be bypassed is unsatisfactory. There is, however, a certain irony in the loudest critics of the use of Statutory Instruments being europhiles – after all they support our EU membership which reduced the power of Westminster. Ken Clarke famously said in 1996 ““I look forward to the day when the Westminster Parliament is just a council chamber in Europe” so any new-found commitment to Parliamentary democracy is somewhat hypocritical given the real loyalties of Europhile MPs lie in Brussels, not Westminster.

There is no doubt that Brexit provides us with an opportunity to re-boot our complete democratic process and indeed, this needs to go well beyond giving Parliament greater opportunity to hold the government to account by strengthening its powers of scrutiny. Our democratic process should be re-vamped to give us, the people, greater power over the people we elect to represent us and ot hold them to account if they, individually or collectively, do a bad job.

But that is for the future. The immediate concern of groups like Unlock Democracy is that the sheer complexity of repatriating EU law is that some legislation derived from EU Regulations and Directives may be weakened or lose its force completely. There is another possibility that the amount of work required in re-working all this legislation will end up with ambiguities more by accident than design.

The Hansard Society has come up with three proposals which at least mitigate these concerns:-

  1.  The EU (Withdrawal) Bill should be amended to circumscribe the powers it delegates more tightly.
  2. A new, bespoke, EU (Withdrawal) Order strengthened scrutiny procedure should be introduced for the exercise of the widest delegated powers
  3. A new House of Commons ‘sift and scrutiny’ system – with a dedicated Delegated Legislation Scrutiny Committee – should be established for all delegated legislation

These are eminently sensible suggestions. The only problem is the timescale. We cannot afford to arrive at Brexit day with any gaping holes in our legal system. To take one obvious example – there will be little if any pre-1973 domestic legislation relating to information technology, the Internet or mobile phones. Massive developments have taken place in these fields since we joined what has become the EU. It is therefore very likely that most of the legislation regulation which govern them comes from the EU. If a given piece of EU legislation slips through the net, some important aspects of day-to-day life for many of us would be completely unregulated.

This piece only scratches at the surface of the complexities our politicians and civil servants face. A huge task lies ahead of them and one which is even more critical than securing a trade deal with the EU.

However given we are talking about well over 20,000 items of legislation, are there some which are so obviously inimical to our interests as an independent, sovereign nation that they should be excluded from the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill altogether? We will consider this subject in the next article.

What is really going on? Stepping outside the media bubble.

If you are Brexit supporter fed up with all the muddle emanating from the media, a press release from the European Commission is hardly the obvious place to turn for clarity.

A recent communication, entitled “State of play of Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom” nonetheless does help to clear some of the fog surrounding the current state of play with Brexit. In particular,  it offers some welcome clarification over the debate as to whether Article 50 is reversible. “It was the decision of the United Kingdom to trigger Article 50. But once triggered, it cannot be unilaterally reversed. Article 50 does not provide for the unilateral withdrawal of the notification.”

In other words, pulling back from Article 50 would require the agreement of both the EU and the UK government. This isn’t on the cards, whatever Vince Cable may be saying. It also provides clarification about life after Brexit. The UK will become a “third country” on 29th March 2019 and if there is no agreement between the UK and the EU by then, we will be reliant on WTO rules for trade.

This looks unlikely. It is almost certain that there will be some form of agreement, but whether it will be sufficiently comprehensive to cover all areas of trade, including non-tariff barriers, remains to be seen. Essentially, the options for both us and the EU are for us to crash out of the EU or to come up with an agreement which has been signed off by the UK government, the European Council and the European Parliament. A qualified majority is required in the Council and no mention is made of the need for parliaments in the member  states to endorse the agreement. Significantly, the institution which produced this document, the European Commission, will not be involved in the sign-off at all.

A new mindset in the Civil Service?

Another interesting article to be brought to our attention is this piece from the Civil Service blog. It mentions the Department for Exiting the EU, or DExEU, a new department created specifically to handle Brexit. So far, 450 staff have been taken on and there are plans to recruit a further 400 during the course of this financial year.  Another new Department, the Department for International Trade, has grown to 3,200 staff. The blog is very complimentary about the quality of work achieved so far by DExEU. “Within days of its establishment – from a standing start – DExEU was delivering policy analysis and advice of the highest quality to the new ministerial team.” One has to say that if the policy analysis and advice was of such a high quality, it is a pity that, judging by some of the ministerial announcements in recent months,  it seems to have been ignored!

The blog’s author, Sir Jeremy Heywood, acknowledges something which we believe to be self-evident but which again, does not seem to be reflected in some of the statements we have heard from the Government:- “This is probably the biggest and most complex challenge the Civil Service has faced in our peacetime history.” On 29th March 2019, for the first time in over 46 years, the buck will stop with Westminster and Whitehall. There will be no Brussels to blame if things go wrong. Our elected representatives and the Civil Service will be fully responsible for running the country and will no longer spend some – or in some cases, most – of their time enacting legislation agreed by the EU. This truly requires a different mindset and we can but hope  that the very upbeat tone of this blog is soon reflected in the actions of government departments, including preparing businesses for the changes which lie ahead.

The Great Repeal Bill

Returning to the Commission’s article, it points out that on 29th March 2019, the EU treaties will cease to apply to the UK. All legislation put onto our statute books which originates with the EU derives its authority from the treaties, so would be rendered null and void on Brexit day.

Due to the impossibility of replacing 46 years of EU laws with domestic legislation in such a short timescale, EU legislation needs to be “repatriated” – in other words, retained on the statute books but with the authority no longer derived from the EU treaties but from the UK Parliament. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, as the Great Repeal Bill is more correctly known, has now been published. It is a full 66 pages long and covers both the European Communities Act of 1972, which will be repealed on Brexit day, and the incorporation of EU law into UK law. The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is not to be brought across, although no mention is made of exempting fisheries legislation, which will be covered by another bill – at least, that was the plan in the Queen’s speech.

It affirms our independence from the European courts and also provides some general guidelines for changes that will need to be made to the appropriate items of legislation to reflect the fact that their authority is no longer derived from the EU. It also confers powers on Ministers to use secondary legislation to amend provisions as they are transposed, although the amount of re-writing which will actually be required goes way beyond the guidelines in this Bill. Completing the necessary changes by March 2019 is going to be a major challenge whatever,

Our proposed withdrawal from the Euratom treaty, which provoked a storm in a teacup, is confirmed under the general guidelines for changes, as is the withdrawal from the EEA agreement, which does pose the question as to the nature of any transitional arrangement for EU-UK trade.

The bill for triggering Article 50 went through Parliament without amendment. The progress of this much longer bill is not likely to be straightforward, but of one thing we can be sure:- much of the mainstream media is likely to be providing us with a very unreliable guide on its progress.

Photo by RNW.org

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

So said the angels when they announced the birth of our Lord to the shepherds on the hills outside Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. And in that spirit at this festive time of year I thought I should break off from the more angst-ridden feelings I might have and instead offer some well-meant advice, whether the recipients want it or not.

The truth is that over the past few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am mightily glad that I am not a Supreme Court Judge. Having watched some of the proceedings earlier this month and read some of the submissions (not all I will admit), it is clear to me that the issues with which they are asked to grapple are complex indeed. Complex enough to give anyone indigestion over their Xmas pud.

Now to me the overall issues are quite straightforward. Governments have routinely agreed to European Union (and before that EEC) treaties using the royal prerogative, so I can see no good reason why they cannot repeal those same treaties in the same way.

No doubt the devil is in the detail. Which is how all those highly paid lawyers make such a fat living, and good luck to them.

No, the advice I wish to give is more about presentation than about content. We all know that the law needs to be applied impartially, without fear or favour and that justice needs to be seen to be done. On such a highly fraught issues as triggering Article 50 this is going to be difficult.

There is undoubtedly a worry, perhaps even a fear, abroad that the wealthy, well connected elites who want us to stay in the European Union are going to use their wealth and connections to try to achieve those ends. If the judges are going to have their ruling accepted they need to lay that ghost to rest.

It was for this reason that I thought it a shame that all the judges are sitting on this case. It is usual for only some of the judges to sit on a case. That would have been quite in order and would have raised little or no comment. But instead we have all of them sitting – including two about whom questions have been raised. That alone smacks of sticking two fingers up to the concerned members of the public and is not a good start.

When the judgment comes I would suggest that it should be written in clear and precise English. If there are any precedents, they need to be explained. If there is any legal jargon, that needs to be explained. This document is going to be pored over by far more people than normally read legal judgments, Many of those folks, like me, are not lawyers and may struggle to understand fully complex legal jargon. If justice is to be seen to be done, this judgment will need to be delivered in plain English.

Having looked at some other cases relating to the EU, that in itself is going to be a difficult and demanding job. But if it is not done that way then whichever side loses may well feel that they have somehow been hoodwinked by clever lawyers, and that is not going to help anyone.

Merry Christmas!

Fisheries Part 9:- Repairing the damage requires careful planning

To recap: Some politicians knew right from the start that the CFP amounted to a betrayal of our fishermen

When National Fishery limits were extended from the 3 nautical mile limit to 12 and then 200/median line in the 1960s and 1970s, British boats which formerly fished far away from the UK found themselves squeezed out of their traditional grounds from the Grands Banks, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Russia. The middle water fleet likewise found itself excluded from Faroese waters.

Under normal circumstances, our fishermen would have been compensated for this loss of access by being given exclusive rights to our new UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 miles/median line. Instead, however, the Westminster Parliament decided to give the people’s resource away. They blocked that option and instead of supporting our own industry, preferred to let the fishing fleets of other EU member states catch most of the fish in what are our waters. Now, a visit to many fishing ports around the UK coast will reveal all too clearly the devastation and decline this policy has caused.

John Silkin, the Labour Fisheries Minister did all he could in 1977-8 to try and obtain a British exclusive 50 nautical mile zone, but as he stated in a House of Commons statement on 19th. January 1978, “There was considerable opposition to my demands on this question on the basis that they were contrary to the Treaty of Accession”.

How often have we heard that? “Go and read the Treaties!” It will be a huge relief when Article 50 is finally invoked, as two years later the EU Treaties will cease to apply to the UK.

Five years later on 25th January 1983, Regulation 170/83 had just come into force, which introduced the percentage share out of all individual species, known in the trade as “Relative Stability”, which the Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher hailed a great success. Six days later, however, Peter Walker, the fisheries minister, painted a different picture:- “The reality is that if the United Kingdom, instead of demanding anything like the historic proportion of Europe’s fish that it had caught, demanded a 200-mile limit and 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of Europe’s fish, that would mean the massive destruction of the fishing industries of most of our friends and partners in western Europe.”

In other words, it was anything but a success for our fishermen, although wonderful news for the fleets of other EU member states.

As has been pointed out before in these articles, the quota system was part of the political integrationist agenda. The commitment to the creation of an United States of Europe was far more important that introducing a fisheries policy built on sensible conservation practise. Each member state was given a quota for each species which the National Governments then distributed among their own fleet.

Why, however, did our government allow our allocation to gain a monetary value? Goodness knows, unless they knew that such action would end up with the allocated resource coming into the hands of a favoured few – including foreign hands – and thus getting rid of British vessels in order to comply with our Treaty obligations.

Non-EU quota based systems are not the answer  

Brexit provides us with an historic opportunity to repair the damage which EU membership has done to our fishing industry. Recently, a number of well-intentioned articles and reports have been published on this subject, written by persons with no sea-going fishing experience. The net result has been a number of proposals which, sadly, are of little if any value.

For instance, knowing that Iceland and Norway are not in the EU and have large fishing fleets, some pieces are proposing that an independent UK uses their fisheries management system as a template. Unfortunately, their assumption that a non-EU country would automatically operate a better fisheries management system has proved misplaced. Both Norway and Iceland operate quota systems and thus their fishing industry has suffered similar social consequences – small family businesses have been forced out of the profession, affecting entire coastal communities.

Statistical and factual confusion

This is not the only mistake in some fisheries proposals. The Adam Smith Institute made a mistake in its fisheries proposal with the chronology of the introduction to the 200 mile/median point zone.

Statistics is another area which also needs to be handled carefully. Lumping all the sectors of the fishing industry together is confusing, as within a single heading are several different sectors, from small boats operating near the shore to large deep-water trawlers using different methods of fishing.

So, to take the 2015 Eurostat statistics on overall vessel tonnage, Spain is shown as having double the tonnage of both France and ourselves, whereas statistics based on overall engine power of the total fleet shows Spain and ourselves having only 75% the engine power of the French fleet. This is because different vessels of different horsepower are used for different types of fishing.

Confusion can also occur when considering the tonnage of species caught, as you can catch huge numbers of some species which have relatively little value, whereas with some species, there is great value in small tonnage.

The overall tonnage taken, (in thousands of tonnes) per nation in 2015 was:-

Norway 2146

Iceland  1317

Spain 901

UK 701

France  497

Even given the caveat about the different value of different species, these figures show the massive potential out there. The tonnage for an independent UK, free from the fetters of the CFP, should be the same or better than Norway.

Things get even more complicated if one attempts to calculate how many fish the other EU member states take out of the UK zone, because figures of the percentage share amongst the member states per area zone is broken down by species. The UK may catch as many as 90% of the total catch of one individual species in our own EEZ but as little as 10% of another. Realistically, the figure is about 40% overall, which mean that vessels from other EU member states take 60% of what is the British people’s resource. France has admitted up to 70% of its total catch comes from the British EEZ.

No other EU Member State gave away its own resources to the degree that we did.  We cannot continue to do this, but on the other hand, if on Independence Day, we swung to the opposite extreme and allowed no EU vessel in our waters, the consequences would be dramatic and damaging. What is required is a transitional time-limited process. Fortunately, on Independence Day, when the Treaties and Regulations cease to apply, we will revert back to our Fishery Limits 1976 Act, which functions under UNCLOS  111, through article 62

Utilization of the living resources

  1. The coastal State shall promote the objective of optimum utilization of the living resources in the exclusive economic zone without prejudice to article 61.
  2. The coastal State shall determine its capacity to harvest the living resources of the exclusive economic zone. Where the coastal State does not have the capacity to harvest the entire allowable catch, it shall, through agreements or other arrangements and pursuant to the terms, conditions, laws and regulations referred to in paragraph 4, give other States access to the surplus of the allowable catch, having particular regard to the provisions of articles 69 and 70.

This is a way whereby a transfer of operations could be fairly moved across in a time-limited period, with no permanent right of access conceded.

In my final article, I will look at the benefits  and potential of Brexit fisheries, but it must not be forgotten what Theresa May said in her Conference speech on 2nd October: The authority of EU law in Britain will end. This,after all, is what Brexit is about.

We trust that we can take her at her word and that the future of the British people’s resource and the revitalisation of our fishing industry and coastal communities rests in the hands of our elected representatives at Westminster and no one else.