WHERE’S BREXIT? – CHEQUERS AND TRANSITION AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT

WHERE’S BREXIT? – CHEQUERS AND TRANSITION AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT

And now we know where we are, and it is a very dark place.

The Fisheries White Paper offered some noble aspirations – as FFLs response acknowledged. www.ffl.org.uk/publications/

Whether it is credible depends entirely on the overall terms of British withdrawal and any agreement reached.

Everything tips on what emanates from the furious political battle on the overall Withdrawal deal. This includes any future British fishing policy born from the Fisheries Bill.

The industry, and our country, is now on a knife edge of either a Brexit boom or total Betrayal.

THE POSITIVE
A clean Brexit with the UK walking away to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules or a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will see Britain in an agreement only affecting trade. The UK will be free from any EU political baggage such as the CFP.

Article 50 and the EU Withdrawal Act irrevocably terminates our membership on the 29th March 2019. Ready or not we are out the club – no amount of votes by parliament can now stop that official termination of our current membership.

They can only shape the post-Brexit relationship terms. Under Mrs May and Mr Robbins tenure it looks like a Brexit In Name Only (BRINO).

A clean Brexit, rather than BRINO, means we will automatically revert to international law under UNCLOS and domestic legislation – both current and enacted through the Fisheries Bill.

This would give the UK an automatic repatriation of all waters and resources within our EEZ and allow complete sovereignty over how they are managed and allocated.

As FFL have continuously striven to ensure this must be differently to the failures of the past.

Post-Brexit policy must be environmentally appropriate to our mixed fisheries and most importantly all fishermen must get equal shares. This is vital if we want to see rejuvenation instead of continual consolidation to a few big companies.

THE NEGATIVE
Well published is Downing streets Chequers deal and UK vs EU border ‘Backstop’ proposals. Proposals which answer a non-existent problem inflated beyond proportion by the EU and Remainers to thwart a clean Brexit

The overall withdrawal agreement renders the Fisheries White Paper moot and looks to take this country and the fishing industry to a dark place.

This is a culmination of the slow-motion enactment of a tragedy to create policy that deliberately negates Brexit and makes the UK an EU satellite vassal state upon exit.

The policy proposed by the 21-month Transition is the UK re-obeys all EU law with no say as part of the future relationship immediately upon Brexit.

The UK may officially “leave” the EU and the CFP as readily pronounced. Sadly, this is naively swallowed or peddled by many as job done.

This misses the semantics – its unquestionable legal fact the UK leaves as Article 50 terminates our membership ready or not – what we do one second after we leave is a different matter.

The Transition means we officially “leave” but then immediately sign up to re-obey the entire EU Acquis (all EU law), including the entire CFP, under a new agreement ratified by a new international treaty to ensure it is binding.

Once such a treaty is signed it is difficult under international treaty law, codified under the Vienna Convention on Treaties, to break or row back from any deal as detailed by the Attorney General.

The EU will then have complete power to amend its Acquis (laws) in any way and we are bound to follow it as agreed under the terms of ‘good faith’.

The EU can enforce any detrimental policy to harm British interests – none more so than fishing.

This is why FFL have vehemently resisted and screamed against a transition when the NFFO and SFF did not – it is not just a quiet 21 months of business as usual – the EU can regulatorily tear us to pieces.

To compound and take this vassalage one step further Mrs May proposes following on the Transition with the Chequers proposals.

Under Chequers the UK will perpetually obey large chunks or the Acquis – dressed up as a “Common Rule Book” – the EUs rule book. This will be arbitrated by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The apparently inconspicuous wording of the Chequers proposal of “common rules on agri-goods” may look harmless to fishing. However, this is worryingly similar to the dodgy wording used in Article 38 of the founding treaty of Rome that was used to establish the CFP – de ja vue?

 Article 38
The Common Market shall extend to agriculture and trade in agricultural products. Agricultural products shall mean the products of the soil, of stock-breeding and of Fisheries.

Anyone who thinks the EU, flushed by success in achieving capitulation, won’t succeed in also extracting perpetual control of fisheries from a craven British establishment is barking mad.

That the EU and our Remain civil servants propose Britain obey all EU environmental rules presents another grave back door control danger to fishing.

THE FIVE ENORMOUS EXISTENTIAL THREATS TO FISHING

12mile Limit
The 12-mile limit granting exclusivity of access to a member states own vessels is only a temporary derogation from the real CFP of “equal access to a common resource upto the baseline” – laid down in the CFP founding Regulation 2141/70.

This was a 10 year sop built into Britain’s Accession Treaty in Article 100 which has been renewed in every 10 year “reform” of the temporary CFP since. With UK membership terminated the EU will be free to amend the Acquis to abolish the 12mile limit before it expires in 2023 – opening up and exposing our inshore and shell fishermen and grounds.

2019 Discard Ban
It is finally universally acknowledged that the 2019 Discard Ban is an existential threat to the majority of the fleet bar the very biggest holders of FQA entitlement units for Quota.

Quotas will never work in mixed fisheries and it is their failure that is the discard cause with the ban merely addressing the symptoms.

Seafish modelling on choke species – where vessels must stop fishing on exhausting their lowest quota – predicts around 60% of the current resources available will go uncaught and presumably a similar proportion of the fleet will go bankrupt.

Especially hard hit will be the prawn fleet and smaller FQA entitlement holders – keeping quotas combined with addressing the symptom of discards not the cause will drive further unnecessary consolidation to a few.

The EU has every incentive to rigorously enforce such a ban to cull what’s left of the British fleet. Eradicating our fleet will allow them to cite Article 62.2 of UNCLOS.
This says where if a nation does not have the capacity to catch all its resources it must give the “surplus” to its neighbour.

Any big operations in the NFFO and SFF hoping keeping quotas and meekly acquiescing to a transition will allow them to pocket all British resources should curb their naive greed. They should realise the only pocketing will be done by the EU outfoxing them by manipulating short term self-interest yet again.

Continuity of Rights
Re-obeying all EU law, including the CFP, immediately upon Brexit in a new legal agreement means the UK will create a continuity of rights between the current treaties and a new.

This is a legally dangerous situation as the EU then has every opportunity to cite Articles 30 and 70 of the Vienna Convention to enact protracted legal proceedings to drag out continuation of rights.

In the end the EU may be proved wrong but the damage will be done. That is if a supine UK establishment doesn’t just roll over to such pressure which could be exerted to push for fishing to be included as “agri-goods” as Chequers hints at already.

International Agreements
Worse, under Article 124 of the proposed Chequers and Transition Withdrawal agreement, Britain will be bound by any international agreements the EU concludes – such as the EU vs Norway management or shares of migratory pelagic species.

The UK will have no say, veto or ability to escape and there is the severe danger that the EU barters UK resources as collateral for agreements beneficial to the EU fleet.
There is nothing to stop the EU bartering away unlimited access or the entire UK pelagic shares to Norway, Iceland and Faroe in exchange for fishing rights for EU members in Arctic waters

Relative Stability & TAC Cuts
Michael Gove is keen to emphasise that Article 125 (conveniently and ominously next to Article 124 on international agreements) agrees to the maintenance of relative stability shares. Firstly, no one voted leave to re-obey current shares gifting what should be ours back to the EU a second time.

Secondly, the agreement is to preserve the principle of relative stability shares not the actual shares themselves. The Commission is free to propose to the council alterations to these shares at any time.

Even if the EU did maintain current share ratios there is nothing to stop the EU agreeing lacklustre Total Allowable Catches (TACs), or shares of them, for species Britain is dependent on such as north sea Haddocks.
Lacklustre shares would further compound the EU turning the screw with a discard ban.

Good Faith
The government pleads all will be well as both parties must exercise “good faith”. Article 4a defining good faith doesn’t mean go gentle – it means Britain must swallow full obedience to the agreement and its consequences such as those above.

WARNINGS NOW MUST TURN TO FIGHTING

FFL alone warned of all this coming in October 2016 at Conservative Conference when the adoption of all EU law was proposed – at that point everyone thought Brexit meant Brexit and thought FFL were barking mad.

This was followed by Lancaster House in February 2017 hinting a “deep and special relationship”.

We were the first to realise the threat and direction of travel of a Transition in October 2017 when announced in Florence. We were alone in conducting protests against it when the full magnitude of the threat dawned on most in March 2018.

On each occasion the consequence of what was warned was proved correct, as Mrs May said one thing then did another. All the while Brexiteers and the public were the frog in slowly heating water.

Our warnings that we were headed for Brexit In Name Only (BRINO) -where we would leave but then create new mirror policies – was greeted with scepticism, but it has come true.

We implore all fishermen not to ignore our warning of what the Transition means or buy the NFFO or SFF line that it’s a fait accompli – their big directing members may survive but you won’t.

The public, politicians and most in our industry have finally got the dire threat of Chequers and the transition.

We implore anyone and everyone to create a howl that MPs can’t ignore. Write to them. Ask for meetings with them. Slap the text above on the table and ask why they’ll vote for something that will kill an industry that should be an acid test and booming success.

A few brave souls in FFL have given their all to ensure Brexit and no back sliding – we need the whole industry now to kick back too.
If one of our founding members can manage to fight for you for 30years with Parkinsons in a wheelchair you need to make the effort to help us fight for yourself.

Chequers and the Transition must be defeated. Many sceptical MPs need to be given the steel to do so. It really is now either Brexit Boom or Betrayal for the next generation of British fishermen.