When I inked in 29 March 2018 in the Totnes branch diary for an action day in support of Fishing For Leave in Brixham I envisaged the town buzzing with visitors soaking up the Easter sunshine and the campaigners taking a welcome break for a drink at The Vigilance, (supporting Tim Martin at his Wetherspoons pub of course), or eating ice creams … how wrong can one be!
The weather was dire – almost as dire as elsewhere in South Devon, which had relentless hail storms- but nothing was going to deter us from campaigning on this highly symbolic date, one year exactly before being released from the Common Fisheries Policy at 2300 on 29 March 2019.
But what a fantastic day we had, hot on the heels of the brilliant Action for Brexeter rally organised by Exeter branch chairman, Alison Sheridan, the previous Saturday. It was another excellent display of Devon UKIP pulling together. Brigitte (East Devon) kindly loaned us some OUT NOW tabards, Alison lent us fishing posters, branch members had made donations enabling me to purchase Fishing For Leave banners, Newton Abbot branch kindly brought the referendum campaign trailer back into commission and gave it a most appropriate make over:
and 22 UKIP members from branches across South Devon turned up to lend a hand.
We were setting up the stall and several of the town councillors came along to lend their support. Vic Ellery was the first on the scene. He married into a Brixham fishing family of six generations so his knowledge of this industry is second to none. He is also Vice Chairman of the Torbay Harbour Authority and is one of the panellists taking part in the public debate, Fighting For Our Fish, taking place in the town’s Yacht Club on 5 April.
Not only were we publicising that debate yesterday but also promoting Mike Hookem’s petition to stop the CFP being adopted into UK law post-Brexit. Mrs Ellery is sharing that petition far and wide through her network of friends. It is pleasing to see that it is gaining traction again with 60,053 signatories at the time of writing this short report. If you have not yet signed it here is the link:
Along came Teddy to ask for some FFL flags to fly from his boat moored in a highly prominent position in Dartmouth. Then Rosemary, who had coordinated the leafleting of the whole of Brixham in the run up to the referendum, came along brimming with ideas and helpful contacts, disappearing with wads of leaflets and reappearing for top ups at regular intervals. More and more folk turned up to see if they could lend a hand. It was heart warming.
Meanwhile we called in to every shop and business near the centre and some of the residential areas were leafleted by the teams of helpers.
Apart from 2 grizzling ‘remoaners’ on holiday in the town we were warmly and enthusiastically welcomed. There was an underlying feeling of outrage at the slow and dithering handling of the Brexit negotiations by Theresa May and disgust that she has capitulated to the EU’s demand of continued access to British waters after 2020.
People were particularly disappointed with Michael Gove’s limp performance and acquiescence that the fishing communities are having their interests given away with no voice or recourse. Sarah Wollaston, the Totnes MP, well known for her high profile flip flop from leave to remain and now one of the Tory ‘collaborators’, has invited him to Brixham to discuss the future of the fishing industry. We do not know the date as yet but rest assured we will be out in force when he does turn up.
Philip Hammond’s glib comment that the fishing industry could be used as a bargaining chip for the finance sector was another point that folk raised, shocked that the fishing industry should be treated with such contempt.
Perhaps worst of all is the realisation that the 12 mile limit bestowed on member states from equal access up to the beach could be abolished by the EU during that 21 months transition period, announced out of the blue by our Government earlier this month. This would expose our inshore and shell-fishermen to EU exploitation. It would allow the Dutch Pulse beam vessels to fish right up to our beaches. ‘We could see the South coast hammered by the French, the Thames and East Anglia by the Dutch, and the Spanish take over and squeeze out shellfish areas such as Shetland, Orkney, Yorkshire and Wales’ surmises Alan Hastings, the Fishing For Leave Press Officer.
He also points out that under this transition period the EU could cull the UK fleet using the quota system. This gives UK only 25% of our fish, and currently forces our fishermen to discard a billion portions of fish in order to find species that they have a quota for. And no, they can’t donate it to food banks as some of the Londoners aghast at the dumping of dead haddock in the Thames by Nigel Farage thought should be done. They cannot land it at all. To comply with EU regulations it must be returned, dead or alive, into the sea).
I predict that Mike Hookem’s visit to Brixham for the public debate will be standing room only. Those fishermen unable to meet him on the night will have the opportunity to meet him on his visit to the Fish Market the following morning. Some 40 or so species of fish worth an estimated £25m is landed and auctioned here each year.
To round off a highly successful campaign day the Old Market House restaurant owner sent over a waiter bearing a tray groaning under the weight of complimentary teas and coffees as a thank you for our campaigning on behalf of the fishing community of Brixham. Cheers!
Thank you Brixham!