[Ed: further to Mike Hookem MEP’s Letter (Saturday 11th February), here is the longer letter written by “Fishing for Leave”, which is important background.]

 

Whether the Government Denounces the London Convention 1964 within the next 6 weeks is a crunch issue and will be the first significant test on and the government’s resolve on “taking back control of our borders” and of whether Brexit will mean Brexit!

Fishing for Leave have written to DexEU (Department for Exiting the European Union) and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to seek assurances that the government will denounce the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 to ensure all fisheries access rights to the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are secured upon withdrawal.

The London Convention 1964 is an agreement to recognise historic rights of access to the waters of the UK between 6 and 12 nautical miles for various other European nations and came into force on 15th March 1966

However, all rights of access to fish in UK waters between 12 and 200 nautical miles are derived through the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

When the CFP ceases to apply on withdrawal from the EU, the UK can automatically repatriate exclusive competency over our 200 mile EEZ and all fishing resources within. The EU fleet will be automatically excluded from this area, unless the government adopts the disastrous CFP as proposed in the Great “Repeal” Bill.

However, when the UK withdraws, we will revert to previous legislation/agreements in force before entering the EEC in 1973. The continued London Convention 1964 will offer “back door” access to the 6 to 12nm (nm = nautical miles) band around the UK.

As the London Convention 1964 needs two years notice in writing to be renounced, the government must do so at the same time as it submits notice on Article 50:

“This Convention grants the contracting parties access to fish in UK waters

ARTICLE 3 Within the belt between six and twelve miles measured from the baseline of the territorial sea. (This was before 200 mile limits were recognised in the 1970s.)

ARTICLE 15 The present Convention shall be’ of unlimited duration. However, at any time after the expiration of a period of twenty years from the initial entry into force… any Contracting Party may denounce the Convention by giving two years’ notice in writing.”

If the government does not do so, there will be an overlap allowing the EU this “back door” access to UK waters which would betray Fishing and Brexit and squander the strong diplomatic position of taking back control of all fisheries with no historic rights of access to honour.

It would be a signal that fishing, and the opportunity of automatic repatriation which would double the worth of UK fishing to approximately £6.3bn to the economy annually, is to be betrayed a second time.

Diplomatically, it would look horrifically stupid that this 6-12nm band remained.

It would still allow EU vessels access and therefore the ability to claim that they had acquired rights under UK law. They would argue and contest allocations to fish conjoined with a legal fight to remove the EU fleet from 6-12nm.

Fishing for Leave have made this pertinently clear to all relevant officials on numerous occasions. Consequently, if the government doesn’t take the easy option of denouncing this Convention in the next 6 weeks before Article 50, then there is evidently no intention of making or taking a serious stand on Fishing or Brexit by avoiding the pitfall of the London Convention and securing the strong position of all access rights to the UK EEZ.

With the Great “Repeal” Bill proposing continuation of all EU law along with the terms of the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy it is disconcerting that there appears to be no intention of Brexit meaning Brexit for fisheries.

We believe the government has no desire to rock the boat with the EU and therefore fishing is perceived as an industry that is an insignificant inconvenience to this strategy.

We fear the industry will be kicked into the long grass to die, despite the massive £6.3bn boom it could provide to coastal communities whilst being a beacon for the success of Brexit.

Fisheries policy will signify whether we’ve “taken back control of our borders” as it has come to epitomize our surrender and enmeshment in the EU. It will therefore be the “acid test” of Brexit with the government’s actions on the London Convention being the first test

This government must serve notice to denounce this Convention as an easy tangible and immediate demonstration of its will to repatriate and safeguard the nation’s greatest renewable resource upon withdrawal and demonstrate the government’s intent and commitment on Brexit.

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