Fishing for Leave recently highlighted that the proposed Great “Repeal” Bill will adopt all EU law – continuing the CFP into domestic legislation and allowing continued EU access and allocations of resource in UK waters.
A further worrying development has occurred with the news that throughout Westminster and Whitehall the London Convention on Fisheries 1964 is being advocated as binding and that the UK must recognise historic rights to allow EU vessels to fish UK waters.
If Brexit means Brexit then why is a forgotten 50-year-old convention being resurrected and trumpeted as giving continued access rights?
Fishing for Leave feels it would be beneficial to clarify the implications of this Convention and how, its provisions have actually ceased to have relevance.
The London Convention 1964 was an agreement to recognise historic rights of access to the waters of the UK for various other European nations.
However, as detailed below it only gave rights of access to fish between 6 and 12 nautical miles, for vessels that had fished these waters between 1953 and 1963 and can be terminated with 2 years notice.
ARTICLE 3 Within the belt between six and twelve miles measured from the baseline of the territorial sea, the right to fish shall be exercised only by the coastal State and by such other Contracting Parties. the fishing vessels of which have habitually fished in that belt between 1st January, 1953 and 31st December, 1962.
ARTICLE 15 The present Convention shall be’ of unlimited duration. However, at any time after the expiration of a period of twenty years from the initial entry into force of the present Convention, any Contracting Party may denounce the Convention by giving two years’ notice in writing to the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The latter shall notify the denunciation to the Contracting Parties
With few active fishing vessels of over 50 years old and for access ONLY in the waters between 6 and 12 miles this convention has ceased to have relevance through the passage of time.
The convention also gives the contracting parties the right to terminate the agreement after 20 years by giving two years notice.
Therefore, the government could easily revoke this convention as a formality to easily demonstrate its will to safeguard the national fisheries interest.
200 Nautical Mile
As is clearly stated the Convention is for between 6 and 12 miles not for between 12 and the boundary of the UK EEZ – 200nm or the mid-line. (as shown on the map below).
.The UK EEZ limit was only created in 1976 with the Fisheries Limits Act 1976 and was instantly subsumed to become part of an EU EEZ in EU control (through Regulation 101/76) as the UK agreed to the CFP of “equal access to a common resource” in our Accession treaty.
Consequently, All the access in the 12 to 200nm is derived through the EUs CFP and the Regulations that it comprises of.
On becoming a member of the EU our 1972 Accession Treaty (Article 100 section 3) recognised and carried forward access within the 6 to 12 nautical miles based on historic access in 1971, with this access obtained through the London 1964 Convention.
Article 100 section3 – If a Member State extends its fishing limits in certain areas to twelve nautical miles, the existing fishing activities within twelve nautical miles must be so pursued that there is no retrograde change by comparison with the situation on 31 January 1971 .
So, once the UK ceases to be a member of the EU through Article 50 Section 3,“the treaties shall cease to apply”, then there are no legal obligations for the UK to allow so called historic rights to other Nations to fish in UK waters.
The UK will automatically revert to full control and an automatic repatriation of all fisheries resources.
The Great “Repeal” Bill would negate the advantage provided by Article 50 (Section 3) by continuing the CFP on the UK statute book. This would recognise all the mechanisms of the CFP – Equal access, historic rights, quotas and their relative stability shares.
This would see a continuation of the status quo which would be a betrayal of Brexit by squandering the opportunity to automatically repatriate all UK fisheries and start afresh to rejuvenate the industry.
What has to be clearly understood, is once UK membership of the EU ceases, full control and competency reverts to HM Government.
With the Convention of London 1964 provisions no longer relevant, and easily repealed, the Westminster Parliament has no obligation to allow any historic rights, unless the government replicates the CFP into UK law and it is down to MPs to make that decision – the buck stops with them.
MPs must decide if they want an automatic repatriation of one of the nations greatest renewable resources or to tell the British people they have continued equal access for EU vessels to catch 70% of the UKs fisheries resources.
Their success on Brexit will be judged on their choice of option.