Last Friday was a momentous day – Britain has officially left the EU. We’ve passed a historic milestone many thought we’d never see.
That is to be celebrated – as many throughout Britain and our industry (including the team at Fishing for Leave) did on Friday.
After every effort of the political establishment to ignore, thwart and overturn the EU referendum result, officially terminating our membership represents a tremendous win for people power and democracy.
Through all our efforts – many above and beyond any call of duty – we have won the ability to start down the road to fully regain our freedom and with that out fishing.
We now start down that road (one littered with potential pitfalls) to achieve being a FULLY independent nation.
This is not the end. Brexit is far from ‘done’. The battle on the EU may be over – the battle for Britain is about to begin.
We have now re-obeyed all EU laws for the 11-month Transition period. It is this which we must fight to escape from cleanly to be truly free of the EU and fully independent.
Brexiteers wanted a clean break not a Transition. None more so than Fishing for Leave. We have ardently opposed the Transition, and every other ploy to keep Britain as closely tethered to the EU as possible.
Mr Johnson has won himself the position to win back our freedom – he can be either a hero or a Heath. The commitment from to not ‘reprehensibly’ trade fishing away and to take back FULL control is hugely welcome.
The government MUST resist the EU’s demand that a fisheries agreement as per the Political Declaration means Britain caving to rolling over current exploitationary access and quota shares.
We have been unwavering in our severe concerns and opposition to the Political Declaration. It remains to be seen how Mr Johnson avoids caving to its demands on fishing and a level playing field adjudicate by the ECJ, given the Political Declaration Britain is legally obliged to ratify as the basis of any trade deal.
Words and slogans won’t suffice to mitigate the electoral beating that will be forthcoming if there is a deal where the UK caves to the EU demands.
It is for that reason that although leaving the EU is to be celebrated as a milestone many said was impossible, it is tinged with melancholy from the awareness of the colossal battle that is to come.
The battle goes on to make sure we get there. To achieve victory on this ‘acid test’ of Brexit the government must ensure;
Any fisheries agreement should see any access or quota swaps on a strictly ANNUAL basis and ONLY when the UK receives a reciprocal value of fishing opportunities.
There must be NO roll over of current access and quota shares as the EU demands. Instead we must embrace the CFP automatically “ceasing to apply” and international law giving us exclusive sovereignty over all our waters and resources.
Moving to quota shares based on the international principle of Zonal Attachment – where nations have shares of stocks based on the predominance in their waters.
The EU will have to cut its cloth to reflect the loss of UK waters and resources to ensure it meets UNCLOS obligation to fish the waters it has left sustainably. The EU can’t make off with 90% of channel haddocks when 60% of the stock is in UK waters.
The UK must be completely free of the CFP and able to exercise exclusive sovereignty. There must be NO level playing field on fishing regulations. Britain must be free to break from failed CFP management to implement bespoke policy that husbands our waters for generations to come.
It is not difficult to move to being a normal independent coastal state like Norway, Iceland or Faroe. Only HMG weakness can lose taking back control of a £6-8bn windfall and see current exploitationary quotas and access continued whilst subjecting us to regulatory alignment with the CFP.
The UK does exports 70% of its seafood, but this merely shows how dependent the EU is on UK seafood exports, just as it is on British financial services and the clout of the city of London. Neither needs to be traded away for the other because of EU hollow threats to cut off its nose to spite its face.
French fishermen still hope that the UK will cave but even they say: “We must not dream” (Didier Gascuel of Brittany fishermen’s association). “The fishmongers, the French processors, will not for long deprive themselves of the English supplies they need daily.”
The EU recognises tariffs are little impediment. The French fishermen recognise continental processors won’t go bust but still import British seafood they desperately need – no different than to what happened on Humberside when the British distant water fleet was kicked out of Norway & Iceland.
So this is a huge milestone and a triumph of people power and democracy against the establishment. We’ve won the battle to write our own future. Now we must finish the war to obtain complete regaining our independence.
A huge thank you to all those who have worked their socks off and supported the cause. Until we achieve the sovereignty and political settlement we sought out to achieve Fishing for Leave fights on!
Onwards & outwards! Let’s hope Boris delivers for our sake and his.