Secretary of State Michael Gove’s comments to the Danish fishing industry are astonishing and disappointing. His comments indicate the government would allow the EU to retain the current shares of resources and access to UK waters given under the EU Common Fisheries Policy even after Britain leaves the EU!
Despite the continued meetings, engagement and reassurances Fishing for Leave have been given since the referendum Mr Gove’s comments abroad are flabbergasting as they suggest the governments position sadly contradicts the domestic pronouncements.
FFL will be writing to Mr Gove seeking immediate justification on his statements of the governments position which do little to assuage fears and accusations that some in the Conservatives will sell out British fishing again to appease the EU rather than defend a £6.3bn national interest and coastal communities that were sold out to join.
No Legal Need to Give Access or Resources
Article 50 and International treaty law allow Britain a clean slate and an automatic repatriation of all waters and resources with no obligation to continue current access and allocations which are given under the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
There is no diplomatic need for the Government to give access or resources in UK waters. Upon leaving the EU has agreed through Article 50 that the “treaties shall cease to apply” and therefore so too will all EU law. Including the CFP and the rights of access to UK waters and all current shares of fisheries resources under the CFP which are disproportionately weighted against the UK.
Not only has the EU agreed a clean slate but there will be no acquired rights of access or resources to honour under International Treaty Law. Article 70 of the Vienna Convention deals with acquired rights saying: “the termination of a treaty does not affect any rights, obligations or legal situations created through the treaty ….unless the treaty otherwise provides or the parties otherwise agree”.
Quite clearly the EU has agreed through Article 50 that all treaties, and therefore laws and rights, will cease to apply and therefore can’t claim acquired rights.
Although there will need to be co-operation with our neighbours with fair share outs, just as Norway and Faroe do, it seems diplomatically and politically self-harming to suggest that things will continue as is.
As Fishing for Leave has continually stated the only way Britain cannot regain all our waters and resources and exercise control and access to them is if the Government gives them away again.
As FFL warned the disastrous Conservative manifesto wording meant only waters out to 12nm would be reclaimed and that there is a difference between having control of waters and how it is exercised.
Although FFL were accused of “shadowboxing” and nitpicking, Defra’s comments now seem to confirm that the government will only exercise Exclusive rights out to 12 miles and run some sort of continued CFP in the rest of our waters.
As the UK will have control of all our waters, and there will be no ongoing international commitments to allow access why do so? What benefit to fishing when we have the predominance of stocks and grounds?
There is not a Lack of Capacity
The information Mr Gove has been briefed, that Britain doesn’t have the capacity to harvest our own resources, is onerous in the extreme. The disastrous CFP has shackled and starved our industry of its own resources as EU vessels catch 59% of the fish in British waters as the UK industry has struggled to survive. Therefore, under a fit for purpose UK policy the British fleet can easily harvest the fish the EU fleet it otherwise taking for free.
Even if the UK fleet didn’t have the short-term capacity, the priority should be to husband and utilise our own nations resources to build our industry and communities back up, not just forgo them to the EU.
International fisheries law under UNCLOS 3 says; “Where a coastal state does not have capacity it shall … give other states access to the surplus” BUT UNCLOS also says; “the state shall determine the allowable catch in its waters” and “its capacity to harvest the resources”.
If the British fleet couldn’t harvest all resources the government can reduce catch limits which would have a conservation effect as we rebuilt our fleet to harvest our sustainable limits rather than let the EU exploit our stocks for free.
Domestic politics would suggest the government use the mandate of the Brexit vote to look out for our country’s interests first rather than appeasing the EU.
Fishing is one of the acid tests, the Conservatives won coastal constituencies in Scotland by overturning huge SNP majorities due to the SNPs pro-EU stance as fishing communities hoped Conservative rhetoric would be matched by results.
Fishing for Leave will be seeking justification from the Secretary of State regards his comments as we write to him and meet with him again in 2 weeks time.