Fishermen say there is minor comfort to hear the Prime Minister specifically mention the words “we are leaving the Common Fisheries Policy”. These words are music to all in the fishing industry after what they say “has been 30 years of torment and hurt that seemed never ending”.
But fishermen are also hugely concerned at the risk that that fishing will become “mangled” in the broader fall-out of the Brexit negotiations, and are grievously worried about Prime Ministers words that the EU and UK are well advanced on and “are close to agreement on the terms of an implementation period”.
Alan Hastings of Fishing for Leave said, “This speech leads to the critical question – when is Britain leaving the CFP? Why did the PM give no mention of the refrain of Michael Gove and George Eustice that we must leave the EU on the 29th March 2019?”
Mrs May stated that a transition is close to being agreed whilst failing to clarify when we will leave the CFP; confirming suspicions that the fishing industry would suffer. This has previously been intimated by senior civil servants, despite Mr Gove and Eustice protestations “that it is government policy that there is an implementation period and that it is the whole acquis that is to be in the implementation period”, which would include fishing.
Fishing for Leave ask if the industry been strung along with fine words that fishing should be outside the transition to placate the industries concern that having to obey ALL EU law after Brexit will allow the EU to cull the UK fleet.
Fishing for Leave recently highlighted that the EU implementing detrimental policy to cull the UK fleet would allow the EU to claim the “surplus” resources the UK has capacity to catch, under the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS) Article 62.2
“This danger is why our industry has been 100% behind no transition for fishing and why unrelenting pressure must be kept on our politicians to ensure we leanly leave the EU on the 29th of March 2019 and with that are completely free of the disastrous CFP in its entirety with no transition for fishing.
“It is why the PM and government must soon make a clear, unequivocal commitment to support Mr Gove and Eustice that fisheries will not be part of any transition”.
FFL were quick to note that Mrs May’s words seem to tie co-operation on shared fishing stocks under international law to being “part of our economic partnership”. This would link access to markets and economics; fishing industry demands this must not happen and which both ministers have continually reiterated won’t be the case.
FFL say that on becoming independent, the UK will be obliged to work with our neighbours on shared stocks but that it is critical this is done on a basis of needs and equal barter, with wider negotiations so fishing is not used as a bargaining chip for some other end.
“The other big concern is that “reciprocal binding commitments” and “mutual recognition” is Mrs May’s aiming for an incredibly complex lattice of arrangements that overlay the existing structures of the EU where the UK ‘takes back control’, because Westminster will pass the regulations, but then agrees to shadow dance with EU regulations.
“These words are dangerously close to Brexit In Name Only and we hope this doesn’t mean that this is a strategy of continuing with the same pig wearing different Brexit lipstick?”
The group says that they feel the PM’s speech seems to continue a “search for a cake and eat it deal”, approach, designed as placation to the equally pugnacious sides within the Conservative party, but are worried that this seems impossible to reconcile in real life when crunch time comes.
“As is now finally being acknowledged the EU is a political unification project masquerading behind trade. Its survival is locked to not compromise ever closer union which is why the EU is sticking to its guns to protect the integrity of the EU project which means it must show a nation can be better off out.
“The huge worry is that as negotiations progress, that when the reality starts to bite that there cannot be some “deep and special future economic partnership”, that the government does not have the courage to walk away but in desperation throws our fishing industry to the EU as a sacrifice for a second time.
“Something has to give and we hope and pray that fishing and Britain’s coastal communities do not get mangled in the wider political context as we leave”.
While a few members of the current government have high hopes for the future of British fishing, do they have the power or the will to stand up against the leadership if it moves to sacrifice the industry as collateral damage in the Brexit negotiations?