SINCE Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, the main Brexit emphasis has been on Northern Ireland; unfortunately fishing has not been of equal importance. The consequence is that the new deal has kicked the can down the road, leaving the fishing industry and the British people’s living marine resource in a precarious position. It comes down to the determination and will of the Westminster Parliament, which gives one little cause for optimism.
If we take the new version which is in italics, we can go through each relevant section.
The Parties should cooperate bilaterally and internationally to ensure fishing at sustainable levels, promote resource conservation, and foster a clean, healthy and productive marine environment, noting that the United Kingdom will be an independent coastal state.
That is par for the course and what you would expect. Endorses the UK as an independent coastal state.
While preserving regulatory autonomy, the Parties should cooperate on the development of measures for the conservation, rational management and regulation of fisheries, in a non-discriminatory manner. They will work closely with other coastal states and in international fora, including to manage shared stocks.
To be expected, but the language of the EU, suggesting following the Common Fisheries Policy rather than a bespoke UK system.
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.
Now one starts to get nervous: access to waters, quotas . . .
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.
Panic. If the Parties do not ‘conclude and ratify their new fisheries agreement by 1 July 2020’, what then? The UK can by that date request up to a further two-year transition period – you can see the present Parliament forcing that. It brings us to end of December 2022, which is a crucial date for fisheries, as the present EU management regulation expires then, and again what the EU bring in next we have to accept.
Then add this very worrying statement: ‘An accompanying Declaration by the EU 27, attached to the Minutes of the 25 November European Council (Art. 50) meeting, states that the European Council will be particularly vigilant to protect fisheries enterprises and coastal communities when considering the future relationship: “A fisheries agreement is a matter of priority, and should build on, inter alia, existing reciprocal access and quota shares”.’
It appears therefore that the EU will insist on a fisheries agreement, providing access to the UK’s waters, as a precondition for agreement of a free trade agreement.
Then there is this: ‘ . . . in time to be used for determining opportunities for the first year after the transition period.’ Bear in mind that the Referendum was in June 2016, and at least till the end of 2020 the EU will take, free of charge, 59 per cent of our people’s living marine resource, possibly till the end of 2022, all under the European Court of Justice, and further free-of-charge activity is expected by the EU permanently thereafter as a precondition to a trade deal.
This is not good.
We are expected to be pleased with the new deal if it gets us out of the EU, and we are supposed to trust Parliament to stand and deliver a true fisheries Brexit, but I fear we are about to be hung out to dry again.
Boris, you and your team have no doubt worked hard for this deal, but will Parliament deliver? I think not. Trust is no longer there. You must call an election, and to get a Parliament that will deliver, and to increase your seats in Scotland, you will have to produce in your manifesto something beyond cast iron.