WHEN PRIME MINISTER, WHEN?
Analysis of the PMs Speech
There is minor comfort to hear the Prime Minister specifically mention the words “We are leaving the Common Fisheries Policy”. These words are music to all folk in the fishing industry after what has been 30 years of torment and hurt that seemed never ending.
This leads to a big question, when is Britain “leaving the CFP”? Why no mention of the refrain of the Secretary of State and Minister for DEFRA that as we must leave the EU on the 29th March 2019?
We are grievously worried on the Prime Ministers words that the EU and UK are well advanced on and “are close to agreement on the terms of an implementation period”
Mrs May confirming a transition is close to being agreed, whilst failing to say when we will leave the CFP, confirms what Fishing for Leave have heard from senior civil servants that despite Mr Gove and Eustice protestations “that it is government policy that there is an implementation period and that it is the whole acquis that is to be in the implementation period” – this would include fishing.
Fishing for Leave ask if the fishing communities and MPs have been strung along with fine words that fishing should be outside the transition to placate serious concern that having to obey ALL EU law after Brexit will allow the EU to cull the UK fleet?
Fishing for Leave recently highlighted that the EU implementing detrimental policy to cull the UK fleet would allow the EU to claim the “surplus” resources the UK no longer had the fleet capacity to catch under the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS) Article 62.2.
The EU could also abolish the 10 year derogation that protects inside the 12mile limit allowing equal access up to the beach, exposing our inshore fisheries to the same fate as our offshore ones.
The EU could also vote to re-adjust relative stability shares even more to the UKs detriment.
These danger is why our industry has been 100% behind no transition for fishing and why unrelenting pressure must be kept on and politicians must ensure we cleanly leave the EU on the 29th of March 2019 and with that are completely free of the disastrous CFP in its entirety with no transition for fishing.
It is why the PM and government must soon make a clear, unequivocal commitment to support Mr Gove and Eustice that fisheries will not be part of any transition.
DELIBERATLY LINKING TRADE AND ACCESS
In addition to this Mrs Mays words seem to tie co-operation on shared stocks under international law to being “part of our economic partnership” . This links access to markets/economics which the fishing industry demands, and ministers have continually reiterated, won’t be the case.
On becoming independent the UK will be obliged to work with our neighbours, but it is critical this is done on a needs must, equal barter basis out-with wider negotiations. This is so fishing access and resources are not used as negotiating capital to be bargained for some other end – no other nation such as Norway, Iceland or Faroe countenances bartering its natural capital for trade.
BREXIT IN NAME ONLY?
The big concern is also that “reciprocal binding commitments” and “mutual recognition” is Mrs May’s aiming for an incredibly complex lattice of arrangements that overlay the existing structures of the EU where the UK ‘takes back control’, because Westminster will pass the regulations, but then agrees to shadow dance with EU regulations.
These words are dangerously close to Brexit In Name Only and we hope this doesn’t mean that this is a strategy of continuing with the same pig wearing different Brexit lipstick?
The PMs speech also seems to continue the search for a cake and eat it deal but there now seems to be a worrying series of contradictions as to whether the UK will be the free global trading nation or continue to closely align and co-operate with the EU in some sort of BRINO arrangement.
MANGLED IN WIDER NEGOTIATION
The speech may be designed as placation to the equally pugnacious leave and remain sides within the Conservative party, by giving them both what they wanted to hear, but one has to ask how this is possible to reconcile in real life when the crunch comes?
Especially with the EU sticking to its guns to protect the integrity of the project as Mrs May acknowledged – “How could the EU’s structure of rights and obligations be sustained, if the UK – or any country – were allowed to enjoy all the benefits without all of the obligations?”
Indeed! That’s the crux of the issue that the remainers find hard to swallow –the EU is a political unification project masquerading behind trade. Its survival is locked to not compromise ever closer union, which is why the EU is sticking to its guns to protect the integrity of the EU project which means it must show a nation can be better off out”.
How Mrs May reconciles the catch 22 of obtaining a deal with a stringent EU, whilst fulfilling being an independent nation as Brexit requires is anyone’s guess but there is three options now
- The EU is not going to budge from its demands as it cannot give a “deep and special” deal as it looks to maintain the integrity of the 27 less others unravel the project by demanding special too.
- The British government can’t capitulate to all EU demands as to do so is political suicide and unacceptable domestically.
- The EU and UK conclude a basic Free Trade Agreement or the UK walks away and trades on WTO and looks to agree a FTA at a later date when the political dust settles.
The huge worry is that as negotiations progress, that when the reality starts to bite that there cannot be some “deep and special future economic partnership”, that the government does not have the courage to walk away but in desperation throws our fishing industry to the EU as a sacrifice for a second time.
Something has to give in the 3 positions detailed above and we hope and pray that fishing and Britain’s coastal communities do not get mangled in the wider political context as we leave.
NEW POLICY TO FULFILL PM’S COMMITMENT
The PM did also say that post -Brexit;
“The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few.”
“That pledge, to the people of our United Kingdom is what guides me in our negotiations with the EU.”
If Mrs May truly means those words they are especially imperative in our fishing industry. Where more control needs returned to those in the know rather than remote bureaucracy and where everyone is given a chance.
Years of inept management have driven consolidation into fewer hands and ports as the inept quota systems failings caused a scramble to buy FQA quota entitlement in order to survive a seemingly endless downward spiral
The welcome whisper from within DEFRA is that futures policy will not continue such a situation of consolidation through the FQA system but will use Brexit as a bookend and springboard to implement policy that allows everyone from the biggest company to the smallest family boat to strive and thrive.
This is hugely welcome after FFL hammering this point home for over a year and must be carried forward to allow fisheries policy to match the PMs rhetoric that Conservative government won’t just work, listen and entrench the advantages of a privileged, powerful, mighty few.
The industry now has a chance to go forward together with new policy that works for everyone and it is time the government fulfilled such a promise.
It’s time a certain minority climbed off their high quota horse and realised that we can have a new system that works for everyone, such as FFL has designed a refined system of effort control/quota hybrid to achieve this.
One thing is critical though – if we do not avoid a transition, do not take back control on 29th of March 2019 or are thrown to the wolves a second time should the government capitulate to the EU then we will have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
That is why new UK policy is vital to achieve a clean escape with no excuse of continuing with or in the CFP for want of a better alternative. It is why the whole industry must come back together, as the majority did in the referendum, to fight hard over the coming months to make sure we do escape from the EU once and for all.