Monday, 23 November 2015

Bill Jamieson in The Scotsman

An excellent article by the great Bill Jamieson in The Scotsman, published on Remembrance Day, November 11, and a very good comment (as you would expect) from Roddy McColl of FAL under it. Actually, it's the second comment so you don't have to scroll far. The whole mess, called the common fisheries policy is outlined in it very briefly.

As it happens, there was a posting on the subject on November 10. Either we agree with Mr Jamieson or he agrees with us.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

No, Cameron has not included the CFP

We now have an official list of the topics on which Prime Minister David Cameron intends to negotiate with the EU and its members (let us not forget that treaty changes will be required and those will need unanimous approval).

Open Europe gave its own analysis to Cameron's letter and in it listed the demands:

A “formal, legally-binding and irreversible” end to Britain’s obligation to work towards an ‘ever closer union’ as set out in the Treaty,

Legally binding safeguards to protect the integrity of the single market from Eurozone integration,

A more ambitious push on economic competitiveness consisting of further deepening the single market, cutting red tape and concluding FTAs with other global economies,

An enhanced role for national parliaments including a collective veto right over new legislation,

Four year restriction on new EU migrants’ access to UK benefits and a more general crackdown on abuse of free movement.

No surprises there and, as we suspected, there is no mention of either agriculture or fisheries, despite a near-universal agreement that the CFP has been an economic and ecological disaster.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

We Will Remember Them

The real Remembrance Day is on Wednesday but today there were wreath laying ceremonies across the country, in other Commonwealth countries and in a few that were not Commonwealth but where there are War Cemeteries. It was good to see the King of Netherlands, whose great-grandmother took refuge in London during the Second World War, standing besides Her Majesty by the Cenotaph and then laying the second wreath.

All the ceremonies are moving and many of them recall local heroes and organizations as this picture shows:

A memorial in Bristol ot the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets. Today, at the Cenotaph, wreaths were laid in remembrance of the vast contribution to the fighting and the survival of this country in two world wars by those two bodies. They both paid a heavy price and we will always remember their work, their courage and their sacrifice.

Remembering is important but it is not enough. We must look forward. We must work and fight (let's face it, this fight is not as dangerous as the ones the fishing fleets faced during the two wars) to restore a strong and successful fishing industry to this country.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

To be or not to be like Norway

One suggestion as an alternative to EU membership is the so-called Norway model, which would leave Britain in the EFTA (European Free Trade Area) and the EEA (European Economic Area) but return to her a good many other powers. There are, as it happens, a few problems with achieving this status in that Britain would have to rejoin EFTA, having left it when she joined the then EEC. Then she would have to join the EEA as a member of EFTA for which the agreement of every single member of that body would be required. These problems are not insuperable and there is good evidence that the present members of EFTA would quite like Britain to rejoin them.

The Prime Minister has already announced that he did not think the Norway option was the right one for Britain, basing his opinion on that old chestnut, "legislation by fax" though these days it would be by e-mail. Norway, this particular argument runs, has all the disadvantages of being part of the Single Market without the advantage of being there to negotiate the rules.

This argument, that will be used a great deal, is misleading to put it mildly. In fact the non-EU members of the EEA transpose a very small proportion of the EU legislation into their own, most of it having nothing to do with the Single Market. As to having abide by the rules of the country one trades with, there is nothing unusual about that. As only a very small proportion of British businesses actually trades with the Single Market countries (around 8 or 9 per cent) those regulations will not affect the others as they do now.

Most importantly, Norway controls her own agriculture and fisheries.

Nor is it precisely true that Norway has no say in various matters to do with regulations. The truth is, as we know from the state of play in fisheries, that a good many of the regulations come from bodies that are above or outside the EU. At these tables Norway sits in her own right while Britain tends to be represented by the EU.

All negotiations to do with fishing in the North Atlantic, as this blog has mentioned times too numerous to refer back to, are conducted by Russia, Iceland, Norway, Denmark on behalf of Greenland and the European Union. Not Britain or Ireland or Denmark on her own behalf. How bad is the Norwegian model precisely?

Discussing this and related matters in the Daily Telegraph Professor Iain Begg raises an important issue: not much is said about what Britain will look like or what her relationship with the rest of the EU, should the people of the country decide to vote to leave. This is, again, not precisely true. A good many people are discussing alternatives, even as we speak (or write) though HMG is keeping quiet on the subject. We know from certain casually leaked information that the Bank of England is certainly looking at alternatives and one would like to think that our over-lauded and over-estimated civil service is thinking along those lines though one cannot be sure. Big businesses are beginning to discuss the possibilities (and there are several) but it is in the interest of the IN campaign to emphasise that an OUT vote would be a leap into the unknown.

What Professor Begg and his ilk do not point out is that staying in the EU is also a leap into the unknown as we have no idea what it will look like in a year's time, let alone ten years or longer. After all, the EEC in which people voted to stay has changed beyond recognition in the years since the only referendum we had on the subject.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The debates are taking off

Brexit debates and discussions are taking off and it is hard to find the time to go to all the meetings, seminars and conferences, particularly as many of the arguments on both sides tend to be repetitions (over and over again) of those we have all heard and used ourselves in the last couple of decades at the very least.

Still, it is good to know that other people are joining in, occasionally even raising the subject of fisheries, which we think is not an enormously important topic but one that could appeal to many sections of the electorate.

Yesterday was the day of the City and Brexit, organized jointly by Business for Britain, who think Britain will do just fine outside the European Union and Business for the New Europe, who think we should stay in, mostly on the principle of holding on to nurse, for fear of something worse.

The general conclusion of the two longish sessions was that the City would survive outside the EU just as it has survived and flourished outside the euro and through a number of difficulties. The City might well do all right within the EU - has done so far - but the constant attempts to undermine it by ever more regulations that fly in the face of all economic thinking remains a danger.

What of other matters? Business for Britain has published a long document (and a short summary of it), called Change or Go in which it outlined a number of ideas about the changes we need to see in the EU; otherwise we should leave and that would not be a disaster. Far from it.

As it happens, those few at the conference, who spoke in favour of staying in and "working for change from inside" did not sound too convinced that it would work. Others said very firmly that we must wait and see what the Prime Minister comes back with but held out no great hopes. Several speakers maintained that the EU was not capable of the sort of change that was required in the twenty-first century and that, more or less is what this blog thinks about the common fisheries policy to which this country is tied while we stay in the European Union.

Going back to the Change or Go document we can see that the section that deals with the various possibilities of what might happen if Britain did decide to go includes a discussion on fisheries. The discussion is too long to quote in a mere blog but here are the main headings:

14.1 The UK would remain a member of all key international fishing bodies

14.2 The UK could continue to cooperate with the EU on fishing

14.3 New fishing policy opportunities would become available

For the time being we shall leave it at that, though our readers will, no doubt, be interested in reading the details. In future postings we shall look at those details.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

A fine example of that "reformed" policy

Worry not, we have been told whenever we have expressed certain reservations about the Common Fisheries Policy of which we shall continue to be members as long as we are members of the European Union, it has now been reformed and more sensible rules will be imposed. Please note the word "imposed". That is exactly what the CFP consists of: rules made at the centre, often for reasons of politicking between the member states and then imposed on all fishermen.

Take this story from Cornwall:

Cornish fishermen expressed concern about the fact that while there has been an increasing number of sporadic but significant hauls of spurdog (Squalus acanthias), no landing of the species has been allowed by the European Union since 2010.

These fishermen consider that it would be logical to think that a zero total allowable catch (TAC) for spurdog means a zero take or zero fishing mortality on the stock, but as spurdog are widespread and locally abundant throughout the Western Approaches and other areas of the North East Atlantic this is simply not the case.

The reality is that there are accidental by-catches of spurdog in many mixed-fisheries not just in Cornwall but around the UK, which inevitably leads to a level of fishing mortality of the resource.

Under the current EU management regime these perfectly good fish must be discarded whether they are dead or alive. There is no real benefit for the stock, fishermen or wider society under the current regime of discarding dead spurdog. This is a waste of a perfectly good food resource and is clearly not in line with the principles of the recently reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and in particular the much heralded Landings Obligation (“discard ban”).

Let us hear it again for the great benefits of the CFP and how it has been reformed and made rational and local. (Yes, we are being sarcastic.)

The news that the EU has decided to cut Baltic catch limits for 2016 is, perhaps, of marginal interest to UK fishermen though some of them might fish in the Baltic, but we were intrigued by the following comment:

The EU introduced a reformed Common Fisheries Policy in January 2014 to end decades of overfishing and help dwindling stocks recover.

Under the new policy, the Commission aims to set catch limits at levels that ensure fish stocks never drop below the minimum level at which they can be fished without having an impact on the long-term stability of the population.

Let us have a look at the points made there. So the CFP had to be reformed in order "to end decades of overfishing and help dwindling stocks recover". Exactly, how long have we had this policy in place? Some decades and yet under its benign control there has been serious overfishing and stocks are dwindling.

During those decades we have had numerous "reforms" though this one has been touted as the biggest since .... oh ..... the last biggest. It seems that overfishing has continued and the stocks went on dwindling.

It seems that, despite that, nothing is being learnt. The Commission, we are told, "aims to set catch limits at levels that ensure fish stocks etc. etc.". Is that not what the Commission has been doing for all those decades during which there was overfishing and the stocks kept dwindling?