New Boss, Same as the Old Boss! The proverbial saying which seems so applicable to both the Conservative party, and indeed the Punch and Judy politics of Westminster.
The person or the party leading the country might change, but the general direction of ideology, policy and where this country is driven does not.
Particularly with a view to this country’s membership of the EU. It was this situation, and the resultant feeling of being disposed and disenfranchised, that led to the biggest vote in our history rejecting the EU and, if the political establishment weren’t apparently so tin eared to public sentiment, their cosy collective set up.
The Old Boss – Mrs May
The nadir of this lofty approach to the British public was reached with Mrs May and her team concocting the dire Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.
Where they hoped they could deceive with an arrangement where, although we technically did “leave the EU” by terminating our current membership, we instantaneously re-joined as part of the new Withdrawal Deal.
We would leave one set of internationally binding EU treaties only to sign up to a new treaty where we had to re-obey all EU law – including the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for upto a 3.5 year “Transition” period. One where we would have no say or escape and one which would be adjudicated by the ECJ.
Where we could only then either agree to the Future Relationship terms outlined in the Political Declaration which the EU placed in front of the UK. Terms which the Withdrawal Agreement legally compels us to accept as the basis of said Future Relationship. OR we failed to agree the Future Relationship terms in which case the Withdrawal Agreements provisions now known as the Backstop meant that Northern Ireland would be annexed from the UK and ruled by the Irish Republic and Brussels.
Thankfully this ruse of Brexit In Name Only (BRINO) was well rumbled. The result – a government and Conservative party shredded to near collapse, haemorrhaging membership and decimated in the EU elections. Where the public registered their contempt for the Withdrawal Agreement with the Conservatives scrapping less than 10% of the vote.
This collective kicking finally gave realisation that the Withdrawal Deal was dead. Mrs May was finally ousted before the point of implosion and Boris Johnson given a chance on the promise the deal was “dead” and that Brexit would be delivered.
The New Boss – Boris Johnson & Why It’s Dire For Fishing
Alarmingly, the proposal announced by the government merely dilutes the Backstop and does nothing to deal with the rest of the dire implications of the Withdrawal agreement.
The Backstop has now taken up all the political focus – either because it was the most punitive condition or deliberately to distract from the rest of the dire deal which remains just as cataclysmically dangerous for Britain.
Additionally, unless the Future Relationship terms outlined in the Political Declaration are wholly re-written then we are heading towards a bad place indeed.
For our fishing industry that is so totemic it would be a complete surrender. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory when we are mere weeks away from a No Deal Clean Brexit. Where, automatically, all EU law including the CFP would cease to apply.
Meaning Britain would revert to international law as a free and independent coastal state, with complete sovereignty over all waters and resources within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) out to 200 miles or the mid-line.
Automatically repatriating our rightful share of fish stocks, boosting our industry to being worth some £6-8bn to rural and coastal communities, and giving Britain the freedom to implement fit-for-purpose policy to replace the dysfunctional CFP rules so we husband our greatest natural resource for generations to come.
What the Withdrawal Agreement does is means “leaving” the CFP, becoming an “independent” coastal state, but then instantaneously handing all our waters and control to the EU as we re-obey the CFP for upto 3.5 years for the Transition period.
During the Transition the EU would be free to impose detrimental rules to cull what’s left of Britain’s fleet.
With every reason to do so as under international law as we’d no longer officially be a member but an “independent” nation, just one that happened to be an EU vassal state satellite obeying their every rule. This means they could cull our fleet and then claim the “surplus” of their “independent” neighbours’ resources we no longer had the fleet to catch.
They could insist under Article 5 terms of “good faith” (i.e. obey the agreement in full) that Britain;
enforce the illogical discard ban.
– Abolish the 12nm limit that protects inshore fishermen.
– Use UK resources as collateral in international negotiations.
– Worst of all, despite Michael Gove protestations to the contrary, the agreement would allow the EU to cut UK quotas.
Article 130 says the current ‘relative stability’ shares of stocks will be preserved. These are however percentage-based shares. The UK could still get 90% of North Sea haddocks the fleet is critically dependent on – but the EU could cut the quota tonnage to ribbons. 90% of zero tons equates to zero tons!
The Withdrawal Agreement then compels us to adopt the Future Relationship. One to be based on a “level playing field” – one imagines with EU rules as the field.
To be based on “non-discrimination” – the founding principle of equal access to a common resource which is the basis of the CFP.
All to be negotiated and traded away as part of the “wider economic partnership” and – although omitted last minute in the in text, but still lingering in intent – all to be based on “current access and quota shares”.
Effectively after 3.5 years of having re-obeyed the CFP in entirety with no say where British fishing could be pummelled, we would then migrate onto a Future Relationship which isn’t “the” CFP but would be a form of “a” CFP – effectively we are being set up to be ensnared in associate CFP membership.
This is not conjecture. This is the factual legal text and consequences of the new Withdrawal Treaty that Britain is potentially inches from being ensnared into.
Fatal for Fishing And The Conservatives
The Withdrawal Agreement was ripped to pieces in in the 6 months around the new year. It has been rejected 3 times, it nearly killed the Conservative party, yet here it is back with minor amendment for a 4th go.
Even if one strips out the patriotic reasons not to vote for such a dire deal, and cynically looks at it from the point of electoral preservation it is insane.
The Withdrawal Agreement will hammer British fishing, it will enrage folk more to have been tantalisingly close to tasting freedom and a future only to have in cynically snatched away. It would see Conservatives hammered in coastal constituencies from Cornwall to Caithness.
Mrs May exhausted the supply of lipstick to put on this pig. It is so universally understood and reviled that no tsunami of spin will make it wash.
The Conservatives are being squeezed of their
remain voters by Labour or the Lib-Dems, the Brexit party sits with open arms
to savage the Conservatives core Brexit vote in a general election.
Labour leave voters have no home to go to and a Brexit In Name Only (BRINO) Withdrawal Agreement would see them baying for Tory blood rather than tentatively lending support.
So why, when every patriotic and political rational says walk away, is a minorly tweaked dire deal back and with all the great and the good who previously opposed it being silently maneuvered to support so as to lend it a veneer of credibility.?
Is it to deliver Brexit at any cost to avoid an extension as per Hilary Benn’s Surrender Act? It would seem strange given the opposition parties could be blamed for any extension.
Is it a bluff to put the onus of talks collapsing on the EU, what happens if the EU double bluff and accepts?
Tory loyalists say that with the Backstop, which would have annexed Northern Ireland, somewhat diluted this will change the direction and negate the pressure on the UK to accept any terms to avoid this.
What this overlooks, is that even if the Future Relationship is totally re-written, and the Backstop threat removed, in order to get to this juicy carrot there is a big stick called the Transition to overcome.
What compulsion is there on the EU to agree decent Future Relationship terms if they have Britain by the short and curlys obeying all EU law in a Transition? Where is the political impetuous going to come from a Europhile political establishment to demand good terms and to heavily diverge?
What is to stop a coalition of remain parties usurping parliament and taking us from obeying all EU laws with no say in a Transition back into full membership? An easy step and an easier sell if Britain is suffering as a vassal state with no credible future relationship on the table.
Seem unlikely? The Conservatives can’t even compel a vote in a Parliament gone ‘tonto’ for their own party conference, let alone for anything that looks remotely like divergence from the EU.
The whole thing as it stands looks grim. Let’s hope we’re not on course for a sell out!
For the sake of our beleaguered fishing industry and coastal communities; our country; and indeed the Conservative party.