John Ashworth highlights the huge diplomatic and constitutional danger that, if the industry or government continue with the EU system of quotas, the industry will have nailed itself to the current EU cross.
Considering we have known the procedure the Government intend to follow since the Prime Minister’s speech on 2nd. October, some of the various articles and letters written by representatives of the industry since then have been disappointing.
For the two Federations to say the Industry speaks with one voice, is far from the case.
Yes, the Industry now wants our EEZ back, a radical and welcome departure from when the SFF and NFFO decried FAL/SBF for saying so, but the crucial constitutional implications are how that EEZ is operated once the UK withdraws from the EU.
The Federations still want to continue with the quota system, however, this is absolute diplomatic suicide which plays right into the EU and Remainers hands, and I will explain why.
- In 1961 Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and his chief negotiator Edward Heath applied for the UK to join the EEC, however, French President General De Gaulle vetoed our application in 1963.
- In the 1960s the 3 mile fisheries limits were being extended from 3 nautical miles to 12. The UK decided to call a meeting of European nations, to agree arrangements for the new limits- this was the London 1964 Fisheries Convention. – this convention can now be repealed with 2 years notice.
- Miraculously this convention gave generous concessions to the other European nations. France ended up with rights to fish 73% of our 6 to 12 nautical mile limits. It made no difference to the French under De Gaulle, he kept his stance of vetoing UK membership until he left office in 1969.
- Heath became PM in 1970, but the French now knew Heath’s desperation to join the EEC, having substantially won in 1964, they could get another bite of the spoils in 1972, which they did with the UK accepting upon joining Regulation 2141/70 which gave control of fisheries to the EU and “equal access to a common resource”.
- When international limits were extended to 200nm the European “petty thief’s” who wanted the 12nm found they had actually robbed a bank by gaining the 200nm.
- In 1983 Regulation 170/83 divided all these subsumed resources within these EU waters out under the provisions of equal access to a common resource to all member states under an EU quota system and relative stability shares.
Therefore, the Quota system the industry has been devastated under and which is the root cause of the discard problem is not some international given nor is it a British system shared with the EU.
Quotas are entirely an EU construct and recognised under law as such.
Consequently, if the Great “Repeal” Bill adopts all EU into UK law, or, the government, with federation approval, continues with these EU quotas then not one thing will change from the current situation.
We will start from the status quo, having adopted and recognised EU Quotas, Relative stability share outs and historic rights and have to fight the EU to barter back our resources that were taken under the EU quota system in 1983.
The EU will have sound legal recourse under international treaty protocol – the Vienna convention on treaties and human rights legislation – to ensure shares stay just as is.
Fishing is not high on the UK establishments agenda and the EU (especially the French) will fight tooth and nail to keep things as is.
There is a huge degree of constitutional and diplomatic naivety being displayed by the federations that the EU will merely cough up on the basis of their new buzz word “Zonal Attachment”.
The only way for the UK to unequivocally take back the resource that belong to the nation under right of international law as per the terms of UNCLOS 3 is to make an entirely clean break from all facets of the EU system – especially EU quotas and relative stability shares.
That the quota system is an ecological and operational failure in a mixed fishery and with the discard ban coming down the track to ban the fundamental requirement of quotas – dumping fish – we will bang the final nails into the UK industrys coffin.
If we do not break from EU Quota system because a minority in the federations wish to see a continuation for their vested interests then we will have diplomatically nailed ourselves to the current cross.
When you look at the bullet points of the NFFO, which we are led to believe the SFF support, why should Parliament and the government bother to repeal or amend the adopted CFP regulations or differ from the CFP in any way?
1)Quotas will be retained as the only practical way of constraining fishing mortality and sharing resource between different countries and different groups of fishermen.
How can anyone in the fishing industry say such a thing? Quota causes excess mortality with discards. This one point is a clear indication, that the NFFO want to keep the status quo – for who’s benefit?
If we recognise or adopt the EU quota system then the UK will be going into negotiation in agreement with the EU system.
2) the central role of producer organisations in delivering flexible and responsive quota management should be retained and developed.
There is nothing flexible about quota, which ends up in the hands of a few. Is this what it is all about?
As one MP stated in last Thursdays House of Commons debate:-
“The two main fishermen’s federations are obvious stakeholders, but will Ministers consider other views and interests to ensure that we provide new small business opportunities for young and old and of course, ensure environmental protections and sustainability and recovery of fish stocks? Our wider economy will not be best served by simply preserving the status quo in order to protect a few individual interests” – This statement sums up the situation well!
The Federations position gives no incentive to repeal the CFP regulations or make a clean break to ensure that the UK gets back the majority of our resources that were bartered away/robbed upon joining the EU.
The even bigger constitutional danger is that the current derogation of the CFP regulation expires in 2022, if the federations acquiesced to a system similar to the CFP -the continuation of quotas – we could find that for political convenience the UK government just runs a mirror policy to the next CFP.
The Federations are trying to take our Industry down a very dangerous path of as close to the status quo for a few vested interests. This does not serve the family unit, and they are wrong to claim unity under one voice and this is why Fishing for Leave, among others, feel we must speak out.