Fishing for Leave has always striven to remain party neutral and to work with any and all MPs from across the political spectrum. So long as they are committed to delivering true British Independence which allows the regaining of complete control of all our waters with no ongoing adherence or fealty to the CFP.
Below we give our run down on each party’s position and the current state of play each has adopted,
There were no surprises in the Liberal Democrat manifesto regarding fishing. It was not mentioned, and the section on coastal communities was weird, as if the coast did not exist, certainly not the sea, which they want to remain firmly in EU hands.
The Labour manifesto was of little help either. Fishing got a mention: ‘New legislation to ensure support and certainty for UK Farmers and Fishing Industry.’ What, pray, does that mean?
The SNP manifesto position does not change. They want to leave the Union of the UK in order to join the other Union of the EU. That is what the SNP call independence.
Oddly, despite the obligations of the EU treaties (which a new member must fulfill) being spelt out to them time and time again, the SNP expect to waltz into EU membership with the EU changing the joining rules to accommodate Scotland. They are in for a shock if they think Brussels would abandon full obedience to the CFP
The Brexit Party manifesto does what it says on the tin. They wish to deliver a ‘clean break Brexit’ without the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration that has been agreed.
So as to ‘recover control of (our) 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. Creating the opportunity to regenerate our coastal communities with new investment, jobs and tourism’. Whilst ‘Invest(ing) £2.5bn in our Fishing and Coastal Communities.’
We don’t imagine the Brexit Party ever acceding to EU demands to reach an agreement which re-instates legal text to allow the EU to continue the current exploitative access and quota shares they have for British waters, nor agree to arrangements which see the UK sucked into permanent fealty to the CFP.
This brings us to the Conservative manifesto.
‘Getting Brexit done will enable us to give new support to people in rural and coastal communities, and for our farming and fishing industries.’
‘Upon leaving the EU, we will leave the Common Fisheries Policy, becoming an independent coastal state and taking back control of our waters.’
‘We will maintain funding for fisheries across the UK’s nations throughout the Parliament and support the regeneration of our coastal communities.’
‘There will be a legal commitment to fish sustainably and a legal requirement for a plan to achieve maximum sustainable yield for each stock.’
We will crack down on the waste and carelessness that destroys our natural environment and kills marine life.’
‘We believe that British farmers and fishermen should be able to profit by producing food and fish that are the envy of the world – both for their quality and the high standards to which they were produced.’
‘A post-Brexit deal for Scottish fishing: As outlined above, we will leave the Common Fisheries Policy, become an independent coastal state, and take back control of our waters in December 2020.’
And most importantly in the opening statement on ‘Getting Brexit Done’; ‘Ensure we are in full control of our fishing waters.’
Firstly, saying we will “leave” the CFP means nothing – we automatically leave and regain complete control of all waters and resources as the EU treaties and policies “cease to apply” as per Article 50.
Article 50 essentially reverses the last 46 years as we revert back to being an independent nation in full control of our waters with all regulations on EU access and quota shares terminating.
It is what we do with our waters once we ‘take back control’ and become an ‘independent coastal state’ as we do immediately upon terminating our membership of the EU and CFP.
The most important points in the Conservative manifesto are these;
- That control won’t be taken back until December 2020.
This is due to re-obeying the CFP for the Transition period – we leave, ‘take back control’ but under the Withdrawal Agreement the Conservatives are committed to immediately hand that control straight back to Brussels.
We will be an ‘independent coastal state’ just a vassal one taking orders from Brussels. This is of huge concern for the fishing industry. We will have no say or recourse to whatever detrimental legislation the EU wishes to impose upon us.
Most worryingly, because we will be “independent” rather than an EU member, the EU can cite UNCLOS 62.2 – which says that if a neighbouring state cannot catch all its resources it must give the “surplus” to its neighbours.
Evidently the EU would have every interest to impinge upon or cull the UK fleet to ensure there’s a surplus it can claim.
2. However, importantly, there is a very welcome commitment that there will be no extension to the Transition which could make a bad situation into the extreme as detailed above.
3. The most important commitment is the Conservatives will ‘Ensure we are in FULL control of our fishing waters’. This looks like a commitment to avoiding our industries biggest fear. That is a Conservative government agreeing to perpetual fealty to the CFP (or elements of it) through some sort of “associate” membership of the CFP.
So, the Transition is terrible, BUT, the Conservatives are committing to ensure it isn’t long and that we have FULL control by 2020.
4. THE BIG QUESTION IS HOW CAN THE MANIFESTO BE MET WHEN IT CONFLICTS WITH THE POLITICAL DECLARATION THE WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT OBLIGES THE UK TO RATIFY?
This is the crux of the problem. The Conservatives manifesto says all the right things on fishing. However, the terms of the deal to which they are committed to signing means it will be extremely hard to deliver.
Particularly the Political Declaration, which Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement obliges the UK to ratify as the basis of any Future Relationship and Free Trade Agreement deal for after the Transition period.
We re-obey all EU law, including the CFP, for upto a Three year extension. The Conservatives say they will not extend to three years but leave after one year.
However, the Withdrawal Agreement says the Transition can be extended if the deal on a Future Relationship to be based on the Political Declaration is not yet agreed. As the whole deal is to be adjudicated by the European Court of Justice it is anyone’s bet as to whether they rule there must be an extension of the Transition whether Britain likes it or not.
This then brings us to the Political Declaration terms on fishing. These say the Future Relationship & Free Trade Agreement should for fisheries (Para 71-77);
· Establish an agreement on “access and quota shares”.
· That this must be agreed (levered/bartered) as part of the “overall economic partnership.”
· Based on “Non-discrimination” – the founding principle of equal access to a common resource.
· A “level playing field” of regulatory alignment – no doubt with CFP rules.
· Continued “Flagships” - Worst of all, under Paragraph 29, the UK would be prohibited from impinging on Freedom of Establishment. This would allow EU owned but UK registered “Flagships” to continue. Even if we took back control of our waters, Paragraph 29 would forbid Britain from stopping the whole EU fleet trying to re-register here and buy out what’s left of our fleet.
· It’s clear we are being set up by the Political Declaration to be driven towards CFP “associate” membership as provided for in Paragraphs 118 and 120.
So, the Conservatives have to be congratulated on what they are saying, BUT, the deal they are signing upto makes it nearly impossible for them to deliver it.
Genuine freedom from the CFP where we end the EU making off with 60% of the catches from British waters is hanging by a thread.
THE EU HAS MADE CLEAR IT WILL USE THE POLITICAL DECLARATION TO RATCHET BRITAIN INTO SURRENDERING FISHING
Essentially Whitehall surrendered to the EU painting the UK into a corner where we are lined up in the Withdrawal Agreement to being permanently ensnared in CFP “associate” membership.
The EU’s now explicitly stated that they will not countenance any agreement unless Britain agrees to surrender on fishing (and continued freedom of movement). This means a Conservative government has a stark choice.
Trash their manifesto promise and capitulate to the EU’s blackmail regards continuing similarly exploitationary terms of the CFP forever OR the UK says it will not sign any Future Relationship/Free Trade Deal terms and at the end of the Transition the UK leaves with No Deal.
Conservatives must scrap the Political Declaration on fishing or be driven towards being Heath mak2 by the ECJ waving “good faith”, “best endeavours”, and our agreeing to ratify the Political Declaration as the basis of any FTA under Article 184, as a stick to make us swallow.
As Boris Johnson said to the Commons in July, bartering fishing for a trade deal would be “reprehensible thing to do”. This deal means he’s inches from it.
He must change course on the Political Declaration and MUST keep his commitment to walk away and not extend the Transition if a Free Trade Deal isn’t reached must be kept.
We hope post-election that the ERG once again reverts to championing a genuine Brexit rather than party cause; that the Brexit Party holds a number of seats to create a Brexit Parliament and hold the Conservatives feet to the fire; and that the DUP hold a similar position alongside them.
We believe only then – when there is a genuine threat of Britain walking away with No Deal rather than continuing capitulation to EU demands – can British fishing be saved, a £6-8bn industry be repatriated to rejuvenate coastal constituencies for generations to come AND see the exorcising of the ghost of Ted Heath.
The overriding, CRUCIAL aspect is this - anyone who believes in genuine British Independence must ensure that we are not signed into the dire terms of the Political Declaration. Otherwise Boris and the Conservatives will be seen as “reprehensible” as Heath was over 40 years ago.
WHAT IS THE MINIMUM PASS MARK ON FISHING?
Fishing must be removed from the Political Declaration and any government must be free of the CFP so as to legislate that the UK must be;
· Entirely free of the CFP and able to exercise exclusive sovereignty over our EEZ.
· Only grant limited annual access when the UK receives a reciprocal value of fishing opportunities.
· ONLY when the EU has recognised the UKs rightful Zonal Attachment share of NE Atlantic Fish stocks.
· Be free to enforce a robust Economic link so UK registered vessels deliver genuine economic benefit to this country.
· Ban Pulse fishing and industrial fishing for Sandeels.
Brexiteers – anyone patriotic who cares about communities - must fight to ensure this happens and is legislated for in the Fisheries Bill. If any deal prohibits the UK from legislating for and achieving the above 5 points then it is not Brexit nor true independence.
If MPs of any political stripe can commit to delivering the points above, which requires not surrendering to EU demands on Fishing under the terms of the Political Declaration, then they deserve fishing communities vote.
If they cannot give their constituents in those communities this assurance, then they don’t deserve to represent one of Britain’s great industries as they’ve no intention to fight whole heartedly for it.