… THAT BRITISH FISHERMEN WERE COMPELLED TO SELL TO EU INTERESTS.
Not only is it a half a truth selectively for their arguments, they should be embarrassed. For it was the EU conjoined with British political complicity forced it to happen.
What crushed British fishing is fourfold. The surrender; mismanagement; corporatisation and penetration of a national resources in what many in the fishing industry believe was a slow series of contrived steps.
The EU established ‘equal access’ to what became common EU waters/resources at the inception of the CFP in the knowledge that Britain, with rich fisheries, would join. This is what Ted Heath sold out too, despite being made well aware of the consequences – the famous response was British fishermen and coastal communities were – “expendable”.
Equal Access allowed the EU to claim after 10 years things were going a bit sideways with stocks. A marauding EU fleet combined with technical advances Britain couldn’t curb with her own policy had denuded stocks. This led to the introduction of an EU system of quotas.
Conveniently the EU fleets declared a huge track record of fish landed. This resulted in them, on average having 75% of the Quotas under a system of ‘Relative Stability Shares’ between member states yet Britain provides 50% of the waters and 60% of the catches in EU waters of the NE Atlantic.
Therefore, initially, due to this surrender and carve up, the EU made off with half the resources that should have been British had Britain been like Norway with independent fisheries. Thereafter, to divide out the small quota share Britain did receive, the government initiated a system called FQA units (Fixed Quota allocations)
These FQA units entitle those who hold them to a particular proportion of the quota pie regardless of the annual tonnage that year (i.e. if there’s 1000 units nationally and you hold 100 then you get 10% of whatever tonnage is available that year.)
This corporatised a national resource as the government allowed these FQA units to become tradeable.
As the quota system doesn’t work in a mixed fishery (and as our waters were over exploited by a herd of EU boats) we were subject to ever harsher quota cuts based on dodgy data the quotas generated.
This paucity of data is caused because fishermen can’t land everything they catch – only those species they have quota for. Anything over quota is dumped dead into the sea. Fishermen have to therefore catch twice the fish to find what they can keep. Critically science is left with an erroneous picture of actual stock levels.
This, combined with the initial loss of our resources when quotas were introduced, pushed a lot of smaller family concerns to the wall as the industry consolidated to last man standing – those with the bigger cheque books – who could buy ever more FQA units that were needed just to maintain the parity of the same tonnage of fish to catch to pay loans.
E.g.: initially 10 FQA units got you one ton. Quota halved so 10 FQA units = 500 kg. To get one ton you now need 20 FQA units. etc etc
To add insult to injury, not only was it bigger British operations who could buy these FQA units, EU laws on freedom of establishment allowed any EU citizen to register a ‘British’ fishing company.
This allowed EU operations (which were traditionally big companies) to set up in Britain and muscle out British family fishing struggling under EU rules. The Thatcher Govt tried to stop these EU ‘Flagships’ but were overruled by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Factortame case.
Was all of the above a series of incidental coincidences or something deliberately planned to allow the transfer of all Britain’s resources into EU hands with only a few big compliant British operators who felt ‘we’re alright chuck’?
Consequently, it is the direct consequence of EU membership that’s facilitated the EU making off with over half of our nations resources directly to member states and for EU Flagships to now own half of what little Britain does get.
Were we an independent nation – based on fish distribution under the international principle of Zonal Attachment – Britain should get 60% of the internationally agreed Total Allowable Catches (TACs).
Currently, we only get 25%, of which around half is in EU flagship hands. This means the indigenous British fishermen is operating on around 12% of internationally agreed TACs when, under international law as an independent nation, it should be 60% – we’re running on a FIFTH!
Is it any wonder British coastal communities have been so denuded of wealth? A clean Brexit – where we don’t re-obey all EU law post-Brexit, as deals like May’s propose – means we become an independent nation under international law (UNCLOS).
This automatically repatriates all our waters and resources as the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) of ‘equal access’, ‘Relative Stability Shares’ and EU quotas, ceases to apply – along with all EU law – as the EU has agreed under Article 50.
We then revert onto our own domestic legislation, that is why we need a good series of amendments to fix what is wrong, and add to what is right, in the Fisheries Bill currently passing through parliament.
We will have our waters and resources back but the government must assert this under Zonal Attachment internationally, so the EU doesn’t try to fish unsustainably with grossly inflated catch shares based on the half we have removed from the common pot.
This is vital to make sure we have our resources and for sustainability. The government mustn’t start from a subservient point letting the EU continue to use our credit card.
FQA units and the corporatisation of a national resource to a few is a British system and will still exist. Fishing for Leave have always said that horse has bolted. Right or wrong people invested heavily in the bad system they had to play with. This should be respected. However, what cannot happen is that the repatriated resource are shovelled into the same bad system.
They must be distributed to all fishermen large or small in all communities to facilitate rejuvenation. This is the most fair and equitable way to do it. Auctioning or giving repatriated resources through FQAs would continue the bad system of consolidation to last man standing we need to stop.
We must also legislate to stop Flagships. Those here will remain as ‘British businesses, but they must be made to be genuinely British – not fishing tourists. 60% British ownership, 60% British Crew and 60% of their catch landed, sold and processed in Britain. This means they too can help rebuild British coastal communities whilst still retaining their businesses.
It means we aren’t against foreign investment and partnerships, but they must deliver economically for Britain. Doing this would allow a reconciliation and avoid an open-door stampede of foreign investors trying to buy out a revitalising British industry.
These are the problems and how we got here, along with how to solve them. Remainers shouldn’t gloat – as though three quarters of your nation’s resources being appropriated under political skull doggery and then under duress is their countrymen’s fault.
Our politicians who were complicit in allowing it all to happen should be jailed for what they have down to hundreds of thousands of people – it was treasonous neglect of whole communities.
Brexit provides a wonderful opportunity to right it quickly. Transitions and Backstops keep us bound to the CFP and the EU to smash what’s left of Britain’s industry with detrimental laws before/if we escape from such arrangements.
That is why we need to Walk Away to a Clean Brexit immediately to repatriate a potential £6-8bn industry that can rejuvenate whole regions whilst selling into a hungry EU market, just as Norway and Iceland did when they took back control of their waters in the 1970s.
It’s a huge prize the political class should not surrender but grasp the opportunity of it or be un-electable in coastal constituencies for a blatant second sell-out against the democratic instruction.