Fisheries Minister shadowboxing with FFL

Fishing for Leaves analysis of Conservative manifesto elicited an immediate and strong response from Fisheries Minister George Eustice.

He, said that it was wrong to suggest the manifesto committed to sovereign control of waters just 12 miles out to sea, saying:

“Fishing for Leave are shadowboxing and they are wrong. When we leave the EU we automatically regain control of the management of our Exclusive Economic Zone under international law.

“This means we will have full control over access arrangements and fisheries management out to 200 nautical miles or the median line.

Why were the Ministers words of 200 mile EEZ not used in manifesto instead of ones that mean 12?

Fishing for Leave immediately replied and have written to the minister to seek clarity as to why deliberately ambiguous words were used and what is now government policy, his words or the manifestos?

We welcome the minister’s affirmation that the UK will reclaim control over our EEZ however, the Conservative manifesto clearly states the UK “will be fully responsible for the access and management of the waters where we have historically exercised sovereign control.

The Minister can dismissively opine FFL “shadowboxing” but we are concerned and seek clarity on  their deliberate choice of manifesto wording that can only mean waters within 12 miles from shore. Furthermore, the Prime Minister reiterated the manifesto wording in a speech in Scotland on the 20th May in contrast to the ministers earlier statement.

Due to the UK being bound to the terms of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) the EU automatically took and exercised sovereign control over the waters of the UK EEZ between 12 and 200 miles when international fishing limits were extended to 200 miles or the mid line to create EEZs in 1976. Resultantly, due to this fact, the UK has never been able to “historically exercise sovereign control” over our EEZ in the waters between 12 and 200 miles only between the shore and 12.

When a simple “all waters within the UK EEZ” would have sufficed why have the last 4 words been deliberately chosen? Why was the manifesto written with such deliberate wording in comparison to the ministers statement when “waters where we have historically exercised sovereign control”, clearly can only be out to 12miles?

In addition to “reclaim control” is different from “exercising sovereign control” over all those waters. and taking back all resources and access to those waters. One can gain something it is what is done afterwards that counts.

Brexit Speech

Furthermore, the manifesto also pledges that policy will be guided by Lancaster house speech and Brexit White paper and both merely add fuel to this particular fire, considering the only mentions of fishing state:

“Spanish fishermen looking for a good deal” and “Given the heavy reliance on UK waters of the EU fishing industry and the importance of EU waters to the UK, it is in both our interests to reach a mutually beneficial deal that works for the UK and the EU’s fishing communities”

Given that only 16% of UK catches are in EU waters but 54% of the EUs catches are in ours its clear who has “heavy reliance” and a deal is “important” and “beneficial” to.

Clarity is Needed as to What is Policy?

All these are deliberate words in speeches, papers and manifestos that are some of the most important in British history – are these clerical errors and clumsy writing or deliberate get out clauses?

If there is an unequivocal commitment to taking back and exercising control over the UKs entire EEZ then why was the same direct and robust language as the ministers statement this not in the manifesto and why did the Prime Minister not echo his words in her speech that day?

It begs the questions, what is going on and who and why is responsible for these deliberate manifesto words, why they were used? Which is the true policy, the manifestos words or the ministers contrasting statement?

Ministers and officials can be moved on whilst the manifesto transcends all!

It is imperative that the Prime Minister gives immediate clarity and an unequivocal commitment to affirm what waters the UK has “historically exercised sovereign control” over and whether the Ministers statement has her full support and if it is the manifestos words or the ministers statement that is policy? Otherwise the door is wide open to accusations of sold short backsliding.

There must now be a clear commitment to affirm that it is the entire UK EEZ and all waters and resources therein, along with an absolute undertaking that under no circumstances will they trade away the right to fish in Britain’s waters as capital in the Brexit negotiations?

Until then the deliberately ambiguous wording in the manifesto could render any  commitment to reclaim British waters as “worthless”. If the Conservatives are as good as the subsequent words extracted from them publicly by FFL then doing so should not be a problem.