As Tory MPs Ross Thomson and Craig Mackinlay prepare to fling these two buckets of fish into the Thames outside parliament shortly, 14 MPs including Jacob Rees-Mogg have written to the Prime Minister to declare the transition deal on fishing “completely unacceptable”. Read below…
Dear Prime Minister,
For the UK’s fishing industry, joining the EEC was a calamity. The resultant decline in the industry accelerated the economic and social decline in coastal communities and was disastrous for conservation and the marine environment. This cannot be compounded by compromise, as the UK leaves the EU.
Over the period of our membership, the UK catch declined from over 1.1 million tonnes a year to 700,000. Under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), EU vessels now catch 650,000 tons of fish in UK waters while UK vessels catch only 90,000 tons in non-UK EU waters in return. As a result, the UK is a net importer of fish each year, with a fish deficit of 300,000 tonnes. This bleak picture however underplays the decline in the UK fishing fleet as many of the UK vessels are under foreign economic ownership and land their fish abroad – only 446,000 tones was actually landed in the UK.
This is economic madness for the UK. It is also an injustice, which many who voted Leave expect to see remedied when the UK leaves the EU, particularly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose coastal waters contain such a high proportion of the UK’s fishing resources.
It is understandable that our EU partners will seek to keep the current system that so unfairly disadvantages the UK. The EU Council Draft Guidance for 22 March stated the EU’s wish to maintain “existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources”. The Commission’s draft Withdrawal Agreement envisages that the UK will remain in the CFP during the implementation period but with no say over EU policy or annual quotas. The effect of ending discards during this period without compensating measures will be a further disaster for the UK’s already shattered fishing fleet, particularly for the inshore fleet, further eroding prosperity in vulnerable coastal communities. These demands are completely unacceptable and would be rejected by the House of Commons.
For the UK fishing industry and UK coastal communities, leaving the EU presents an unparalleled opportunity. A future UK Fisheries Policy (UKFP) must: prioritise conservation and the environment; restore the right for UK vessels to catch and land UK fish; implement new and far more sophisticated fisheries management, so that this important and valuable resource can be recovered and focus economic development in some of our most remote and overlooked coastal communities.
By taking back control of our resources we have an opportunity to nearly double the size of our fishing industry to the great benefit of the UK’s coastal communities including important fisheries in Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Scottish Fishing Federation, for instance, estimates this could be worth £2.7bn and 30,000 jobs. Free to control our own fisheries we could help rebuild the economically and culturally valuable inshore fishing fleet.
The UK should have complete control of all fishing activity within our Exclusive Economic Zone. Like other North Atlantic maritime states and depending on state of the marine environment and fish stocks, we should negotiate reciprocal access to non-UK vessels. But any access granted must be temporary and without future obligation. Foreign vessels granted licences to catch fish in UK waters after 29 March 2018 must comply with UKFP regulation and inspection, enforceable under UK law. They must also land their fish at UK ports for processing and onward sale.
In order to address these challenges and to make the most of the opportunities for UK fishing as we leave the EU, the following measures are necessary. At the forthcoming EU Council, the UK should indicate:
· Our intention to take back control of our 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone as permitted under Article 61 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
· UK national fisheries resources are not negotiable.
· Leaving the European Union means setting our own fisheries policy from 29 March 2019. The UK will not remain party to the CFP during the proposed implementation period.
It is understandable that our EU neighbours will attempt to frustrate our desire to control our fisheries and will seek to add it to the negotiations. It is therefore important that all UK politicians support the UK negotiating team and you as Prime Minister as you deliver on the referendum vote.
Taking back control of the UK’s fisheries resources to be managed for the common good of all of the United Kingdom’s coastal communities has the potential to show how the UK government can deliver for all parts of our nation that have often been overlooked. A UK fishing policy delivering for Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland will have great benefits for our Union in stark contrast to that of the failed EU CFP.
Rather than seek to continue with the failed CFP, we should start the work of revitalising all our coastal communities throughout the UK by championing a truly independent UK fishing policy.
Ross Thompson MP,
and the following representatives of coastal communities:
Sir David Amess MP
Sir Henry Bellingham MP
Colin Clark MP
Steve Double MP
Richard Drax MP
Alister Jack MP
Bernard Jenkin MP
Craig Mackinlay MP
Sheryl Murray MP
Derek Thomas MP
Martin Vickers MP
Rt. Hon. Sammy Wilson MP
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Chairman of the European Research Group.