Why fishing matters so much to Brexit success – Superb Telegraph View

Why fishing matters so much to Brexit success – Superb Telegraph View

21 March 2018 • 7:09pm



It is reported that No 10 expected any anger surrounding the Brexit transition deal to be focused on continued free movement until the end of 2020 – and is taken aback by the reaction to its treatment of fishing.

This confirms suspicions that Theresa May’s team has never entirely “got” Brexit. Yes, immigration was an important issue in the referendum, but not the issue. That would be sovereignty. Restoring the powers of self‑government will mean Britain has the chance to control its borders, for one, but also its waters – and this island nation takes its waters very seriously indeed.

Fishermen are the coal miners of the sea, in the sense that they might be of relatively small economic significance but are of huge political resonance. They are toilers, risk-takers: a tribute to the dignity of honest work. They play a central role in the British historical imagination.

Perhaps we don’t eat as much fish as we should; perhaps it’s time for a campaign to encourage us to buy more. Either way, the notion of regaining control of our waters – and as soon as possible – is an example of Brexit expanding the individual’s freedom to work, just as the British government will gain the freedom to sign trade deals.

Too many in No 10, unfortunately, regard Brexit as an outbreak of nativism, and that’s probably why they didn’t appreciate how salient this issue would be, even among Remainers. Even Ruth Davidson has come out swinging for a sector that is critical for the Scottish coast. The fate of the fishing industry has the ability to magically turn Europhiles into Leavers. She appreciates what the Prime Minister’s staff do not: that there are plenty more votes in the sea.