FFL are incredulous over 4 specific words in the Conservative manifesto which indicate the government will only take back a tiny slice of UK water out to 12 miles!

Analysis and scrutiny of every word is key in any legal or political document. One of the “acid tests” of Brexit is to take back sovereign control from the EU of all UK waters and resources within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) out to 200 miles or the mid-line under international law.

This would allow Britain to reclaim a £6.3bn pound industry, worth tens of thousands of jobs, to rejuvenate coastal communities but the manifesto wilts on this key issue when scrutinised properly.

However, without sovereign control of all waters and resources inside the EEZ all other commitments are worthless without the raw materials and the most important ingredient – regaining our waters.

The manifesto states that the UK

“will be fully responsible for the access and management of the waters where we have historically exercised sovereign control”.

The choice of the last 4 words is  the key. They are ambiguous and a delusory play on words.

Why? Because the UK has never been able to exercise sovereign control over our EEZ in the waters between 12 and 200 miles from our shores!

Britain was already an EU member and bound by the CFP (Common Fisheries Policy) when international fishing limits were extended to 200 miles.

The UK recognised her sovereignty over the EEZ out to 200 miles, with the Fishery Limits Act of 1976.

However, these waters were automatically subverted to the EU which exercised sovereign control instead of the UK as per the terms of the CFP foundation Regulation 2141/1970, the terms of which, in Article 2, Section 3, said the EU would control

“the maritime waters…. which are so described by the laws in force in each Member State”.

Therefore, the manifesto’s choice of 4 words are deliberate and indicate, as FFL has continually warned, that the government has no intention of taking back control of all our waters!

The Conservatives better mean all UK waters within our EEZ out to 200 miles, otherwise Brexit, the nation and the opportunity to reclaim all waters, for all fishermen and for all communities has been betrayed.

Without all our waters and resources the rest of the fantastic wording of “a new regime….for prosperity for a new generation of fishermen” is meaningless and they have failed on this “acid test”.

The Minister, Mr George Eustice, said that it was wrong to suggest the manifesto committed to sovereign control of waters just 12 miles out to sea:

“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 Minister’s words of the 200 mile EEZ not used in the manifesto?

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.”

Fishing for Leave have written to the minister to seek clarity as to which waters Britain “historically exercised sovereign control”, why these deliberately ambiguous words were used, and what is now government policy, his words or the manifestos?

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.

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 miles.

When a simple “all waters within the UK EEZ” would have sufficed why was the manifesto written with such deliberate wording in comparison to the Minister’s statement, when “waters where we have historically exercised sovereign control”, clearly can only be out to 12 miles?

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.

Clarity is Needed as to What is Policy!

All the deliberate words in speeches, papers and manifestos on Brexit, 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 UK’s entire EEZ then why was the same direct and robust language as the minister’s statement not in the manifesto and why did the Prime Minister not echo his words in her speech that day?

It begs the question: what is going on and who is responsible for these deliberate manifesto words? Which is the true policy, the manifestos words or the ministers contrasting statement?

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, whether the Minister’s statement has her full support and if it is the manifestos words or the Minister’s statement that is policy. Otherwise the door is wide open to accusations of selling short and 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!

[Text Image: John Hart, Brexit cartoon gallery]

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