Fisheries part 2 – the legal position

Once Article 50 is invoked, unless there is a mutually-agreed extension to the negotiation process, the treaties will cease to apply after the stipulated two year period whether or not an agreement has been reached. We will no longer be members of the EU, and thus no longer bound by EU Treaties and Regulations. Legislation on our statute books which began life as EU Directives will still apply because they have become part of our domestic legislation, although we will have the freedom to amend or repeal them.

Whatever exit agreement Mrs May seeks with the EU, it is in everyone’s interest to work for an amicable settlement, as is becoming apparent. However, if the other 27 members start being awkward for whatever reason, it will make no difference as far as Article 50 is concerned:- we will be out after two years.

It is useful that in fisheries we have already experienced two occasions when a termination date for an agreement was reached, as will also be the case at the end of the article 50 process. The second example shows very clearly that the Commission learnt from the first, even though the two incidents are 30 years apart. They show very clearly what will happen, particularly without any agreement.

The background to the first incident goes back to our Accession Treaty to join the then EEC in 1972. Within that Treaty was a 10-year transitional derogation, which terminated on 31st December 1982, exempting the UK from the equal access principle which handed the competency of all UK waters to Brussels. In other words, while the derogation was in force, the 6 nautical mile and partial 6 to 12 mile limits were reserved for exclusive use by the British.

A further transitional derogation, Regulation 170/83, was agreed and should have come into effect on 1st. January 1983 to replace its predecessor. However, it did not become operational until 25th. January 1983, leaving a 24-day gap.

Kent Kirk, a Danish fishing captain who was also an MEP, decided to test the legal position during those 24 days. He took his Danish-registered fishing vessel inside the British 12-mile and started to use his fishing gear. He was promptly arrested, escorted into North Shields, tried, found guilty and fined. The case went to the European Court, and a year and a half later, the guilty verdict was overturned. Why was this?

The answer was simple. We British had completely failed fully to read and understand the Treaties and Regulations we had signed up to. In our Accession Treaty, we had handed all our waters up to the base line (The low water mark – the shore line) to the EU. When the first 10-year derogation giving us back exclusive use out to 12 mile expired, we reverted back to the original arrangement under our Terms of Accession for 24 days until the new derogation came into force. Kent Kirk proved that without a derogation – in other words during the first 24 days of 1983 – any EU vessel could have fished up to the British beaches.

In 2012, thirty years later, the Commission realised that, thanks to the increasing complexity of fisheries management, they were facing a similar situation. The next 10-year transitional derogation would not be ready in time to take over from Regulation 2371/2002 which was schedule to expire on 31 December 2012. In order to avoid a repeat of the Kent Kirk saga, the existing Regulation was extended by a year to give time to finalise Regulation 1380/2013 which replaced it seamlessly on 1st January 2014.

The lesson from these two cases is that when you hit a termination date, Regulations cease to apply if nothing is put in its place. This is particularly important with regards Article 50, as section 3 of the Article states that “The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period. “

As far as fisheries are concerned, unless an agreement is reached to change the negotiating timetable, two years after invoking Article 50, at midnight of the given day, all the terms stated within our EU Accession Treaty cease to apply, meaning that the legal basis for handing competency over the living marine resources within all UK fishing waters to the EU collapses and competency returns to HMG. Furthermore, as EU Regulations rely on the Treaties for their legality, those Fisheries Regulations which create and distribute EU quota and determine the percentage share out and who fishes what and where in the British zone also cease to apply.

To repeat, everything goes. This even includes the rights of EU vessels to fish in British waters, known as historic rights, which date from 1971. The relative stability quota share out of 1983 also goes. Bearing in mind that the EU quota system was designed as a tool of integration, rather than sensible fisheries management, its demise will be a very positive development. If, however, by the end of Article 50’s two-year negotiation period, the UK has not signed off a fishing policy to replace EU legislation, we will find ourselves in a legal positon whereby no British vessel can fish in EU waters and no EU vessels can fish in British waters, while all existing allocations cease to apply

What has to be understood is that once the clock starts ticking, it is imperative to have an agreement in place by the time we leave, for otherwise, this is the problem we will face on exit day. Under international law, our government will be legally responsible for the management of the UK 200 nautical mile/median zone, and we automatically revert back to the Fishery Limits (1976) Act.

Given the obvious benefit of regaining control of these resources and the consequences of the Treaties ceasing to apply, it is obvious that we will have the upper hand in any new negotiations with the EU over any access to our waters.  However, the UK government and fishing industry are far from united in their enthusiasm for the end of quotas and the return of fisheries to UK control. In the next article, I will explain the difficulties which could complicate negotiations – the concern of banks who have lent money based on EU quota that will be all be lost once we leave the EU.

The implications of Article 50

We welcome back John Ashworth, whose earlier series of articles on fisheries for this website were edited into a single booklet, The Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing. In this series, John looks at how Brexit will affact our fishing industry. Firstly, however, he begins with a more general overview of the implications of Article 50.

The month after the historic referendum vote, 1,054 lawyers wrote to the Prime Minister stating that, in their opinion, the referendum is advisory. “The European Referendum Act does not make it legally binding,” they wrote. “We believe that in order to trigger Article 50, there must first be primary legislation. It is of the utmost importance that the legislative process is informed by an objective understanding as to the benefits, costs and risks of triggering Article 50”.

Having been hoodwinked many times in the past over legal issues concerning fisheries, I have come to be very suspicious about lawyers’ interpretations of the law,  especially in relation to the EU.

Let us consider in layman’s terms what are they saying. As is often the case, their argument is presented in a roundabout, confusing way. At face value, their statement appears to mean that Parliament has to vote on the triggering of Article 50. This is what they would like as Parliament would probably vote NO. I am pretty confident that this is what they are saying. We can also be confident that these lawyers are either remainers or acting on behalf of remainers. In one sense, their argument is correct – the European Referendum Act does not make the result of the referendum legally binding, but why bring that Act into the equation? It does not determine whether Parliamentary consent is required to trigger Article 50.

Article 50, as part of the Lisbon Treaty, has twice been endorsed through an Act of Parliament. Firstly through the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 accepting the Lisbon Treaty, and secondly through the European Union (Croatian Accession and Irish Protocol) Act 2013 accepting the acquis communautaire in full which includes the Lisbon Treaty, including, of course, Article 50.

So why should any further legislation be needed to accept the procedure which has already been laid out so clearly in existing Acts of Parliament?

There has been a lot of confusion about Article 50. Firstly, in July, the former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato claimed that he had been responsible for writing Article 50, but it was never actually meant to be used. It has been specifically  inserted to placate the British

“My intention was that it should be a classic safety valve that was there, but never used,” he said. “It is like having a fire extinguisher that should never have to be used. Instead, the fire happened.”

He went on to say that “Prime Minister May wants to wrap things up by 2019, but it will be easy to prolong matters.” In other words, he hopes that it could become an issue at the next General Election and the Brexit vote overturned.

Secondly, in my experience, our Ministers, even Prime Ministers have been taken to one side and told go and read the treaties. They have not studied them in detail, To avoid making the same mistake, it may be helpful to remind ourselves what Article 50 actually says, whether or not it was ever intended to be used. Here is the wording, in full:-

Article 50 – Treaty on European Union (TEU)

  1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
  2.  2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. 
  3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period. 
  4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

 A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5.  If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

The wording shows that Giuliano Amato is wrong to state that the process can be prolonged. It is up to the UK not the EU to decide when to Invoke Article 50. What is more, after the two-year negotiation period, section 3 kicks in and the Treaties shall cease to apply.

This means that as far as fisheries are concerned, at midnight on the given day, the competence the UK handed to the EU through our Accession Treaty no longer applies and control of the UK’s 200 nautical mile/median line zone comes back into British control. The implications of that will be considered in my next article, but in conclusion, here are two other thoughts to consider

Firstly, as Regulations (unlike Directives) take their authority from the Treaties, once the Treaties will no longer apply to the UK, ALL EU legislation which has come in the form of Regulations will also cease to apply

Secondly, when we joined the EEC as it then was, we joined as a whole “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. We can only leave as a whole, so if Nicola Sturgeon wants to stay in the EU, first Scotland has to leave the UK and then apply to join the EU. If ever this happened, Scotland was allowed to join and voted to do so, the Scottish fishing fleet, instead of being able to take advantage of independence to regain control of its fishing zone, would have to be reduced further.

 

Photo by bengt-re

Fishing for Leave bests Geldof’s motley crew

Earlier this year, the Campaign for Independent Britain published a booklet by John Ashworth of Restore Britain’s Fish entitled The Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing to the European Union. It was based on a series of articles which appeared on our website a couple of months earlier.

John, who spent his entire working life in the fishing industry, has been advising the Fishing for Leave group, who were organising a big demonstration to highlight the damage which the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy has done to our fishing industry.  Yesterday was their big day. A flotilla of fishing boats from several parts of the UK assembled at Southend at 5AM to sail up the Thames. They arrived at Tower Bridge (which had to be raised to accommodate some of the larger larger Scottish vessels) at 10AM.  It was a very moving moment when the fishing boats appeared, some of which had travelled hundreds of miles to make their point about how the iniquitous CFP has damaged their livelihood.

After mooring the larger boats by HMS Belfast, seven smaller boats, headed by a contingent from Ramsgate, sailed off via London Bridge to Westminster to make their protest outside the Houses of Parliament.  Their presence would have made David Cameron’s statement at Prime Minister’s Question Time (which was going on at the time) that the UK’s fishing industry was “much better off today than it was five years ago” ring very hollow.

There was a good crowd on London Bridge as the boats sailed past while Westminster Bridge had something of a carnival atmosphere as hundreds of people jammed the pavement to show their support for our fishermen. John had travelled down from his home in Yorkshire with a suitcase full copies of the booklet, which were all received gladly, both by passers-by and fishermen’s groups who were part of the crowd. As an East Sussex resident, I was particularly pleased to meet a group of Hastings fishermen who enthusiastically accepted a few  copies to take back with them. “This booklet will make you very angry, ” I warned them!

Besides the UK press, a considerable number of  foreign radio and TV stations were present. Arron Brown, the Scottish fisherman who had organised the event, was inundated with request for interviews and John Ashworth was interviewed by TV channels from  Sweden, France and Russia. Danish and Polish press teams were also present. They would all have come away under no illusions about our passion to leave the EU and in particular, the depth of support we feel for our fishermen.

Of course, those of us watching from the shoreline were only partly aware of the shenanigans going on with Bob Geldof’s pro-remain counter-demonstration. Even as the first boats passed under Tower Bridge, a few little dinghies flying their “in” flags could be seen bobbing around between the fishing boats. I can’t claim to be unbiased, but they really looked pathetic. Quite frankly, it was an insult to people who work so hard for their living in very adverse conditions. I had the chance to  spend a few minutes on board one of the larger vessels which had come down from the North East of Scotland and was made very welcome by the crew, but even without being given a full conducted tour of the boat, it was obvious that this was no luxury craft as far as accommodation was concerned.

The showdown between Geldof’s boat and that carrying Nigel Farage and Kate Hoey likewise did nothing to enhance the “remain” cause. One could not but consider the white flags they waved saying “In” looked like a flag of surrender. I couldn’t make out what the cacophony blasted out from his vessel was all about. Only by reading the press coverage of the event afterwards did I discover that it was a 1960s song which I had never heard of, entitled  “In with the In Crowd” and quite frankly, I don’t think from what I heard yesterday that my previous ignorance about this musical masterpiece has been any great loss.

A correspondent informed me this morning that the skipper of the vessel which Geldof hired may face prosecution. Certainly, their behaviour, in particular making rude gestures at Mr Farage, won them few friends. Owen Bennett, a reporter who saw things close at hand, reported thatOne man on a fishing boat was almost shaking with anger as he shouted across to us how the quota system was destroying his industry. He didn’t want to be lectured by Geldof, who seemed more intent on calling Nigel Farage a w***** than expressing a genuine interest in the fishing industry.

And this is what has wrong-footed the Remain campaign. Geldof and the like fail to appreciate that, in John Mills’ words, “The EU may work for the metropolitan élite – but it doesn’t for most working people.” Our fishermen yesterday illustrated this truth in a particularly graphic  and moving way. It was a privilege to have been there to support them.

The report of yesterday’s events on the Fishing for Leave website is well worth reading.

The Clyde demonstration planned for this morning has been cancelled as a mark of respect for the murdered MP Jo Cox. Fishing For Leave has stated on its website that it was not in the interest of public safety to proceed with the protest in the Clyde following ‘viable threats’ from Remain campaigners who claimed there would be “Armageddon” at the demonstration.

The Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing – Booklet still available

Readers who appreciated John Ashworth’s excellent series of articles on the Common Fisheries Policy will be delighted to know that the eight pieces he wrote for this website have been edited into a single booklet, which is now available free of charge (although any contributions would be greatly welcomed).

If you live in near a fishing port, it will be a particularly useful booklet to distribute, but even if you don’t, what has happened to our fishing industry is not a one-off story, atypical of European Union behaviour. This well-researched and hard-hitting account of the destruction of our fishing fleet by government ministers and civil servants epitomises everything that has been wrong with our membership of the EU and provides a very powerful reason as to why we must leave the EU.

Even with the referendum vote behind us, this booklet is still well worth a read and copies are still available.

Please contact us by e-mail or by ringing 0845 519 7254 if you wish to order copies.

A pdf download is now available here.

The Common Fisheries Policy Part 8: Can we believe anything?

One theme that runs through the UK’s 43-year involvement with the EEC/EU is that our politicians –  supported by the Civil Servants – have done everything in their power to keep the UK locked into the Common Fisheries Policy and indeed, to the EU as a whole. There have been constant assurances and promises everything was being done for UK fishermen and the future was guaranteed to be better. There were glowing expectations of what reform would bring.

Yet the opposite has happened. These empty promises merely kept the UK locked into a system which progressively strangled our industry and the fishing communities. Constantly a light of hope and change for the better appeared to be shining at the end of the long tunnel but as you got nearer, the light disappeared further away into another tunnel so as to continue the flow of implementing integration – as commanded in the Treaties – often by stealth. An EU Common policy has one destination, a Union fishing fleet in Union waters.

Fisheries provides a true life and particularly graphic example of what our own people have done and will do to betray their own. But for what? This question has never been answered. We are currently watching the same picture unfolding with Prime Minister Cameron’s renegotiation package. It will be presented as a light at the end of the tunnel – the final solution that will enable the UK to be in Europe but not run by Europe. “Come with me and I will give you back your country”, says Mr. Cameron. Oh really??

Just to recap what the salient features of the Common Fisheries Policy actually are:-

Equal access: All waters of the member states, up to the shore (base) line is shared equally with every other member state. Apart from during the early 1970s, you never heard the equal access principle mentioned, even though it was created at the very start of the Common Fisheries project – as far back as 1970.
To a common resource: All living marine life is a common resource.
Without discrimination: One of the main principles of the EU membership which our Prime Minister does not want to understand.
Without increasing fishing effort: So if a new member has large capacity and little resource, that capacity has to be absorbed with no increase in catching more which means someone has to go.

On January 1st 1973, Britain, Ireland and Denmark joined the EEC, and in their terms of membership was a 10-year derogation (an exemption from equal access) for the coastal state to retain the 6 mile and partial 6 to 12 mile limit. This concession was more valuable to Britain than any other member state.

The first derogation ran out on 31st December 1982, and a new derogation was put in place, once again of 10 years’ duration, from the 1st January 1983 to 31st. December 1992, and thereafter every 10 years, the present one expiring 31st December 2022. We are constantly told Britain is at the forefront of fisheries regulation. Oh yes! We are briefly when the threat of losing the derogation for the 6 and partial 6-12 limits hangs over us, but this is not exactly a strong negotiating position.

The Fisheries Minister for 1982/3 was Peter Walker, who called that session “The CFP”. You will often find officials stating the CFP started in 1983, but it didn’t. It was merely another derogation from the CFP. He also stated “the Commission made an unequivocal statement as to the right and obligation of all member States, in the unique circumstances of fisheries, to protect this vital resource, and the Commissioner stated that this would apply to all of the proposals on conservation, access and quotas.

Of course they would say that; it was an obligation written into our Accession Treaty. Walker went on to say: “No concessions of any description will be made by the United Kingdom Government that affect the United Kingdom fishing industry.” He had obviously taken no notice of other part of of our Accession Treaty, yet a month later in January 1983 he stated: “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.

Is that why we joined the EU? To sacrifice our fishermen and indeed our country on the altar of the EU?

Ten years later, when the 1992/3 agreement was being negotiated, the then Fisheries Minister David Curry stated that, “The measures form a package that secures the industry’s future and that of the fishermen. The policy is based on conservation and common sense.” What  conservation? Answer: the conservation of too many vessels chasing too few fish. Hardly “common sense” as the term is normally understood!

At the same time Sir Hector Munro, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, “I go to Brussels next week; we shall do our best to help the fishing industry in the United Kingdom. Fishermen must understand our difficulty and understand that we cannot concede more fish than conservation will permit”.

Precisely so. We are tied by the Treaties which our own people don’t acknowledge, but everything is building up to use the beneficial crises of conservation to get rid of the British fleet.

On to 2002/3 and another period called “reform of the CFP”. Alun Michael, the Minister for Rural Affairs stated that “One of the Government’s aims for reform of the common fisheries policy is the encouragement of sustainable fishing. UK and EU funding is available to encourage fishermen to adopt selective catching methods.” By now it was a bit late to save the British fleet. Encouraging the use of selective gear should have been started 15 years previously, but the mission of integration had to come first.

The 2012/3 period was called the “New CFP”. Admittedly every 10 years the package gets bigger and more complicated, but the management regulation still contains equal access and the time-limited derogation for the 6- and partial 6 to 12-mile limit. This means on the 31st. December 2022 the whole Fisheries management regulation falls, and the whole negotiation starts again.

One thing that did change in this so called “New CFP” – one word, Community waters/vessels became Union waters/vessels. This was another small step to the eventual final destination to total integration.

So December 2022 will be another battle of pretence. Our Ministers will go to their masters in Brussels and argue for British fishermen, who are really Union fishermen. Meanwhile the only “British waters” are so limited that the fishing of those waters thas now been relegated to a cottage industry which only exists thanks to a derogation within the 6 and partial 6 to 12 mile limits, which the other EU member states are under no obligation to renew.

Or perhaps it may not be like this. We could end this farce once and for all by voting to leave the EU. Indeed, if we do so, by 2022 we could instead be showing the world how, as free people we can manage the marine life to the benefit of mankind and the environment, rather than the driver of politics of subservient people.

CONCLUSION

The whole purpose of writing these articles is not just to expose the scandal of the CFP but to point out where the blame really lies. Firstly, look at the deception of that frequently-used word “reform.” Anyone using that word must be challenged:- What is actually being reformed and how? As far as the CFP is concrned, the answer is very little. The treaties constrain the scope for reform to little more than tinkering at the edges. Secondly if our government ministers, aided by Whitehall, can be so duplicitous and treacherous in this one area of fisheries, can we really assume that their behaviour with regards the EU has been totally honest in every other area?

The Common Fisheries Policy part 7: FleXcit: Our fisheries’ future.

One cannot expect to cross examine Prime Minister David Cameron on the issues on which he intends to campaign to stay in the EU if the leavers can’t explain what will replace EU membership. Hence the reason for FleXcit, which contains a lengthy section on Fisheries – from page 267 to 280. Dr. Richard North and Owen Paterson MP had already produced a green paper on the subject of Fisheries and this has now been incorporated into FleXcit

Anyone who campaigns in the forthcoming EU referendum, for the “leave” side, cannot just say that Parliament must repeal the European Communities 1972 Act, and hope for the best. That is not good enough. There has to be an orderly and amicable separation, which is not going to be easy. After 43years of integration, it is going to be a major challenge. However, as far as fisheries are concerned, it is no good scrapping one régime in order to establish another equally bad system. Withdrawal presents us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to show what can be achieved in an area that contains one of the finest marine resources in the world.

The North/Paterson green paper, now part of the overall Fisheries FleXcit plan, is excellent. It is the most exciting prospect for marine management, and for someone like myself who has worked on fishing vessels in many parts of the world, and has been heavily involved in conservation, I know the potential is staggering.

As far as the UK is concerned, the fundamental principle on which a policy should rest is that the fish and other sea creatures within the UK’s fishing zone of 200 mile/median line are the property of the nation as a whole. Custody of that resource lies with the central and devolved governments.

The first priority, therefore, is that control/competence is returned back to Britain. The overall Fishing Industry, while appearing as one, is made of several different groups, often opposing each other. The Industry is as divided now as it was in 1972 when the British Trawler Federation supported the “equal access” principle because they mistakenly thought they would gain access to Norwegian and Icelandic waters.

An inshore industry could be built around the 0 -12 mile limit, which would have a beneficial effect on coastal communities through tourism, recreational fishing, employment and other ancillary industries. All could be administered locally. The offshore Industry would be based on the 12 to 200 mile/median line, and then you have the straddling stocks and reciprocal arrangements, which brings genuine friendship between fishermen of different nations. When other nation’s vessels fish in our waters they would do so under our rules.

Devolved Fisheries Management Authorities (known as FMAs) could be set up. There would be two types: inshore (As far out as the 12 mile limit); and offshore (from 12 to 200 miles or up to the median line). Each would have a small executive board, responsible for policy-making, a consultative council and an executive arm responsible for administration. There would also be an agency, responsible for monitoring and carrying out enforcement action. Members would be appointed independently of the Secretary of State, and inshore boards would be appointed by the local authorities in the relevant maritime areas.

FleXcit’s fisheries proposals are based on the concept of “Days at Sea”. The advantage of this is that there is no reason to cheat. If you are a good fisherman, you will do well whereas a poor fisherman will not survive.

By contrast, the CFP is based on the political tool of quota – it has to be because of the integration process and equal access principle. It encourages cheating and dumping of non-quota catches either on shore or at sea. It is a rigid system trying to impose its will on a fluid and rapidly changing conditions.

Two essential features are needed for a viable fisheries policy. The first is the ability to be able rapidly to close areas down where juvenile fish are abundant. This has to be done within hours, even if the closure period may only last for a day or two. This ability to react quickly will never happen while our waters are under the control of Brussels control. The other important feature of any contemporary fisheries management is the use of selective gear, As a fishing gear designer I need to emphasise that the gear you design for one area is not the same for another area. Even if you are catching the same species, you need to make slight alterations to the gear. This level of adaption is impossible under the policy imposed by Brussels where one set of rules must fit the whole of a large area.

You must have fishermen on side to make this work, but again, under the North/Paterson proposals, this is far more likely than under the current EU- controlled regime. The attitude it has engendered is that if I don’t catch it, some other foreigner, even though it is another EU citizen, will get it, so I will get in first.
With selective gear, as long as the Minimum Landing Size (i.e., below which you are not allowed to sell) is above the breeding size, you can’t overfish, because you are culling the top of the pyramid. If there are no fish of that size, the fisherman will have no catch to sell, and will go out of business, but that is market forces at work, not overfishing.

Personally, I am strongly in favour of the model used by the Faeroe Islanders which operates in a diametrically opposite way to the EU system of setting for each species a total allowable catch on an annual basis, often based on dubious research. In my view it is no good working from the top of the pyramid downwards. Research should be directed at the base of the pyramid upwards; starting with the food source. Once you know the availability here, you can calculate what can be sustained at the top. If for example you have a collapse of the base, you have to fish the top hard, the very opposite to what would happen now.

To explain what I mean, this would be like a situation where a famine is taking place somewhere in the world and another million people are sent to that area to live there. If you don’t have the flexibility to enable fishermen to catch more adult fish, they will simply eat their young. This is exactly what happened in Norway when they destroyed their sand-eel stock. The adults took longer to grow and the fish that survived ate their young, destroying the next generation.. Sometimes one species will increase dramatically, and they have to be fished harder to restore the balance. You can only do this with a system as proposed under FleXcit, not the rigidity of Brussels.

Another area that is totally unfair is that fishermen have come under criminal law, which puts them on a par with drug dealers, thugs and thieves. This is not the way to get maximum co-operation out of those who harvest the sea, for which any successful fisheries régime requires maximum data being collected from the fishing industry. The best penalty for offences is to dock days at sea, and if the operator continues to offend, to take their fishing license away.

Leaving the EU per se is no solution in itself. It is only the beginning. Every badly-designed EU policy will require individual replacement with something better. And fisheries provided a useful example of exactly how a bad policy can be replaced by something better. Largely self-contained in policy terms, it makes an excellent test bed for policy development as well as illustrating the complexity of the repatriation process.

There is no question that it poses a challenge but at the same time the opportunity to do far better – to harvest nature’s gift free of political interference – cannot be ignored. Ranged against us are those who don’t want the Nation State, and those reformists who either don’t understand the workings of the EU, or else who have a hidden agenda. If they really believed in reform, they would want to get rid of the principle of equal access to a common resource without discrimination. However, such reform is impossible because of the thinking behind the EU Common fisheries policy, which is incapable of beneficial reform along the lines suggested here as it violates the very principles of integration enshrined in the EU treaties which it was designed to promote. Unfortunately, so-called reformists never acknowledge this harsh reality.