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Coastal communities engulfed in a cloud of confusion


THERE were no surprises in the Liberal Democrat manifesto regarding fishing. It was not mentioned, and the section on coastal communities was weird, as if the coast did not exist, certainly not the sea, which they want to remain firmly in EU hands.

The Labour manifesto is no help either. Fishing got a mention: ‘New legislation to ensure support and certainty for UK Farmers and Fishing Industry.’ What, pray, does that mean?

The SNP position does not change: they want to leave the Union of the UK in order to join the other Union of the EU. That is what the SNP call independence. They expect to waltz into EU membership, with the EU changing the joining rules to accommodate Scotland. They are in for a shock.

We need publication of the Conservative manifesto to see what they say on fisheries. An interview with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on last Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show left the issue of fishing in a state of confusion. Raab persisted in mentioning the Political Declaration, and that we will be an independent coastal state, and yes, there will be compromise.

If the Foreign Secretary can’t answer Marr’s fishing questions with clarity, who can? Is it any wonder that coastal communities are concerned that compromise could well mean sell-out? Raab made a huge mistake when he implied Boris’s fisheries deal was different from May’s. It was left to Marr to point out that they are word for word the same.

The Political Declaration is very clear on the issue of fishing. There are only four paragraphs, the last two being:

73. Within the context of the overall economic partnership the Parties should establish a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares.

74. The Parties will use their best endeavours to conclude and ratify their new fisheries agreement by 1 July 2020 in order for it to be in place in time to be used for determining fishing opportunities for the first year after the transition period.

Number 73 could not be clearer on future intent, and number 74 raises serious concerns. It is no coincidence that the date for a new fisheries agreement to be done and dusted, 1July 2020, is the same as the last date to ask for an extension to the transition period. Boris has stated there will be no extension, but then he said there would not be one beyond 31 October 2019. The reason for the identical dates is because creating a fisheries agreement is far more beneficial for the EU if ratified within the time of transition. It would be concluded under the existing terms of the EU, where they take the British people’s resource, free of charge and with no access to their market. An agreement outside transition, when the UK has third country status, would be the same as other EU/third country status agreements of a substantial annual fee paid by the EU and access to the single EU market.

Raab continued pushing the Tory slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’, insisting we will be in full control of our fisheries. The Withdrawal Agreement, which admittedly is for the transitional period but is also the basis of our future relationship with the EU, contained the killer blow of Article 130 section 4: Without prejudice to Article 127(1), the relative stability keys for the allocation of fishing opportunities referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall be maintained.

Article 127(1) is being under the ECJ. The WA and PD keep us locked into the Common Fisheries Policy during transition, with no say or input, and having to accept all that the EU throw at us. The fishing industry is scuppered, everything now depending on the trade deal. We know French fishermen are organised to blockade the French ports, preventing the movement of goods, unless they get a deal as at present. What will the French and British Governments do? Stand back and let the French fishermen carry out this illegal act?

Unfortunately no one has come up with a clear meaning as to the questions in the 2016 referendum. Leave or Remain? Do we continue to be a member of the EU, or no longer be a member? To me, according to our EU Treaty of Accession, all the competences handed over to the EU for membership are automatically handed back on the date of no longer being a member to the Government of the leaving state. The only negotiation required is to what degree is our Government going to give the people’s resource away.

All the evidence to date indicates Brexit is not going to be what Leavers thought it was.

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John Ashworth
John Ashworth
John Ashworth has worked all his life in the Fishing Industry, as a gear designer and manufacturer. He spent 20 years working on fishing vessels around the world, and promoted environmental issues, He led the Save Britain's Fish campaign through the nineties and early twenties and is now part of Fishing for Leave.

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