Fishing for Leave (FFL) recently submitted a 14-page document to the House of Lords Energy and Environment sub-committee that is compiling a report on fisheries in the context of Brexit.
Fishing News recently summarised FFL’s paper.
The Lords asked FFL a range of questions which included:
1: What are the most urgent priorities for the UK’s fisheries negotiations with the EU?
Ensure a UK withdrawal and repeal of the European Communities Act 1972. The EU treaties will cease to apply under Article 50 and the UK will take complete control of fish stocks under international law (UNCLOS III) and manage them for the benefit of the UK fishing industry and coastal communities. The CFP must not be replicated in British law. The public will not tolerate a repeat of the 1972 sacrifice of the fishing industry.
70% of ﬁsheries resources worth £1-1.5 billion pounds in UK waters are held by other EU member states. 60% of the UK ﬂeet has been scrapped and fishing towns destroyed.
2: Is it in the UK’s interest to restrict access to UK waters for foreign vessels?
The majority of EU catches are taken in our waters. Unrestricted reciprocal access was forced on the UK through the founding principle of the CFP- ‘equal access to a common resource’.
With the Lions share of resources, equal access is a one-way street massively to our detriment.
If the UK and EU mutually exclude their respective fleets there would some loss to a small number of the UK ﬂeet. However, this would be more than compensated by the huge ﬁsheries resources repatriated to the UK, which would mean around a 250% increase in the resources available to the UK ﬂeet. The EU EEZ represents little overall beneﬁt to the UK.
Any negotiation should only be on a basis of equal exchange and only when absolutely necessary on an individual needs must basis. (eg scallop access in the EU sector of the English Channel). ‘Reciprocal access SHOULD NOT become equal access in all but name.’
No British ﬁsheries resources should be traded away either with regards to ﬁsheries or in the wider political context. A repeat of the 1972 sacrifice would be ‘a fundamental and dire sell out and not politically expedient’.
After securing our own EEZ, ‘signiﬁcant mutually beneﬁcial agreements’ could be made with Norway, Faroe, Iceland and Greenland.
3: Should the UK seek to preserve access to free trade in ﬁsh? What trade-offs would likely be necessary to preserve access to free trade?
There should be no trade off in ﬁsheries access or resources in return for tariff-free access to the single market. ‘You have to be able to catch it before you can sell it’.
Currently we are allowing the raw product to be caught for free and landed to the continental market, undermining our market share and losing the ﬁnancial beneﬁt of this ﬁsh to the UK industry and economy.
Demand for British seafood will remain whether we are signed up to a political project or not. Trade is between buyers and sellers not politicians.
World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would not allow punitive tariffs. Many nations export to the EU. Norway, Faroe, Iceland and Greenland are all non-EU countries yet export far more ﬁsheries products to the EU than does the UK without difﬁculty.
4: What approach to achieving MSY and sustainable ﬁsheries would be in the UK’s best interest outside of the CFP? Should the UK continue to co-ordinate TACs and quotas with the EU and neighboring countries? To what extent should the UK preserve current TACs and quotas? Could, or should, the UK seek to renegotiate the relative stability key?
MSY targets should be flexible and reflect the interdependence of species and the dynamics of the marine environment.
The UK should implement its own management plan tailored to the mixed ﬁsheries around the UK. Quotas should end, with a transition to a days-at-sea system taking account of current track records/FQA units. The CFP must not become replicated into British law.
TACs for each sea area are agreed internationally through the NEAFC and ICES. Each independent coastal state can then manage the proportion of the resource in its EEZ under the provisions of UNCLOS III. Quotas and relative stability are a CFP mechanism and will cease to apply after Brexit.
Recognising relative stability or quotas runs the ‘huge danger’ of continuing the status quo. This would allow the continuation of equal access and a division of UK resources among the remaining EU member states and would be ‘totally unacceptable’.
Quotas create discards, distort catch reports and do not conserve fish. A different approach is needed in the UK’s mixed ﬁsheries.
Scientists and ﬁshermen must work together, recognizing one another’s expertise/knowledge to ensure accurate real time stock assessment – such a system in Norway is a great success.
5: What obligations to co-operate on ﬁsheries management exist under international law? How will this affect the UK’s ability to restrict access for foreign vessels, bearing in mind historic access or other countries’ ability to restrict UK access to their waters? Will the UK be able to restrict access for vessels that are UK-based, though owned by an EU company before and after Brexit?
UNCLOS III conventions show clearly that it will be at the UK’s discretion to regulate all fishing in its EEZ.
All flag ship rights derive from EU treaties and law. With Brexit these will no longer apply so, as far as can be ascertained, foreign-owned vessels on the UK register (flag ships) could be removed if the UK reverts to the provisions of the 1988 Merchant Shipping Act which were over turned in the ‘Factortame’ case.
6: What type of relationship with the EU and neighbouring countries would be preferable for securing effective regional management and co-operation?
It would be advisable to have only broad agreements with NEAFC where necessary under UNCLOS III regarding conservation of shared and migratory stocks.
Norway, Iceland and Faroe show that independent, sovereign nations control and husband their ﬁsheries far more effectively than the bureaucracy of the EU.
In summary Brexit provides a once only golden opportunity to rebuild the UK ﬁshing industry and coastal communities with the ‘massive economic benefit ’ accruing from the reclamation of our EEZ and ﬁshing resources. ‘Anything less for either political or a minority of vested industry interests would be a massive betrayal of the opportunity, Brexit and the nation.’