An “island made of coal, surrounded by a sea of fish” – Aneurin Bevan
When the UK leaves the EU, we believe our waters should come with us. Since 1984, our archipelago nation has been a net importer of fish. That is a disgrace, a testament to the failure of our political leaders. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was a French invention, hurriedly put together and agreed by the original six EEC members in June 1970. The timing was no accident, nor was the rush. It was a policy, which the original members wanted to precede accession talks with Denmark, Ireland Norway and the UK.
The waters of the new applicants contain 90% of the fish round Western Europe, with approximately 80% in the UK’s waters alone. By getting “equal access” established as EU law, meant that the candidate countries would have to accept it as part of the terms of joining. Similar to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the CFP was heavily biased in favour of the French. However much the British fishing industry complained, it was unable to prevent Edward Heath’s determination to sign up.
As a resource grab, the CFP was highly effective and the fish caught by British trawler-men diminished from 948,000 tonnes in 1970 to 417,000 tonnes in 2008. To put that into context, the 405,000 tonnes of fish netted in 1915 were when the North Sea was a war zone!
Britain received absolutely nothing in return for sharing the assets swimming in its waters. Heath’s government showed no ability or desire to even delay the application of the CFP, let alone prevent it and the UK’s fishing grounds were turned into a common resource for all EU members.
In July 2017, Michael Gove announced that the United Kingdom was leaving the 1964 London Convention which allowed European trawlers to come as close as six miles to the UK coastline.
Mainstream media swallowed the DeFRA line that this was a step in the right direction towards the UK taking back control of its territorial waters.
According to international law, however, a full 200 miles offshore belongs to the UK unless this clashes with another nation, whereby the limit is half way between the two. It is perhaps going to take several years for the UK fishing industry to recover. What better time to allow fish stock to recover from ruthless over-fishing and a quota system that saw millions of tonnes of fish thrown back into the water dead.
The Libertarian Party are fully behind negotiations aimed at achieving a free trade deal, but this must not be done at the expense of one of our great natural resources.
Martin Day – Party Secretary