We have expressed our incredulity at the governments failure to denounce the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 last week.
This was despite a Downing Street leak on the issue that was also covered by the Times, Telegraph, Daily Mail, Express and Sun citing that the government would act in the national interest and secure the strongest possible hand by regaining control of all access rights to fish in UK waters.
The London Convention recognised historic rights of access for European nations to fish in UK waters between 6 and 12 miles from the shore. As it pre-dates our membership of the EU it would still apply upon withdrawal when the access to 12 to 200 miles given under the EU CFP would “cease to apply” as per the terms of Article 50 Section 3.
As this convention requires two years notice to be served this had to be done to concur notice was with the two-year time period of Article 50 to avoid an overlap, however the government has failed to do so.
The government has been aware of this crucial issue for months since FFL first highlighted it and we have made strenuous efforts to brief MPs, Lords, Defra and DexEU at how imperative it was that this Convention was scrapped to secure our waters and avoid an access overlap.
They are fully aware of the issue so why haven’t they acted to do so? What is there to delay upon?
The issue surrounding this Convention was raised by Owen Paterson and Kate Hoey during the announcement of Article 50 in the Commons. With the Prime Ministers answers confirming that she is fully aware of the diplomatic necessity of this to British interests.
The PM said that the government“.. hope to be able to say something about the London fisheries convention soon”.
We have written to confirm when “soon” is and if the government truly intend to secure UK waters or continue to prevaricate after 8months on the issue?
We now have a situation of an overlap between the date of withdrawal and when the London Convention will end. Diplomatically this mean that the EU’s vessels will be able to continue to fish between 6 & 12 miles from our shores.
They can thereafter claim continuity of rights and the government would become embroiled in a fight to remove them that could have easily been avoided by serving notice on this convention at the same time as Article 50.
This indicates that either the government is aware that there will be an extension to the 2 year time period of Article 50 or that they have no intention of being contentious over fisheries and are kicking the can down the road.
The Prime Ministers strange, uncomfortable and contradictory answer is suggestive that something is going on.
He (Owen Paterson) is right that this would require two years, but we of course expect to conclude the deal with the European Union within two years and there will then, as I have indicated, be an implementation period beyond that particular time?
Firstly, if the government intends to withdraw in under 2 years why has the 2 years notice to secure our waters not been issued already?
Secondly, and more disconcerting, what is this implementation period that is mentioned here? Is the UK going to be half in and half out the EU in some sort of transitional limbo?
Brexit was about regaining sovereignty and control of our borders and the London Convention is one of the immediate tests of the government and MP’s resolve on Brexit.
We therefore hope that the government can clarify why this is the case and what commitment it intends to give to act and in what time frame?