George Eustice, the Fishing Minister, never ceases to astonish one. I suppose one could say that about a lot of politicians but he is a prime example of a man who quite clearly has not understood anything about his brief. How else could one explain his statements as quoted in the Plymouth Herald?
In his desire to destroy support for UKIP some fishermen in the Plymouth area he announced that those fishermen (and, presumably, others) are better off within the common fisheries policy than they would be outside it. Does he mean that if Britain was outside the EU, outside the CFP legislation would have to be passed by people like him and he is manifestly not fit for the job? Somehow we do not believe that but that is what his statement sounds like.
“One thing I would say is that EU rules are far too prescriptive and create too many unintended obstacles,” said Mr Eustice, who represents his home constituency of Cambourne, Redruth and Hayle in Cornwall.
“There is a common EU objective to fish sustainably but there is now more flexibility with how we deal with that nationally.
“For example, if a fisherman finds he’s caught far more haddock than he expected, then he can place that catch within their cod quota instead. With that [negotiation], we can change policy for the better.”
Cod quotas were due to be cut by 65 per cent last year, said Mr Eustice, but successful EU lobbying reduced it to a 26 per cent cut.
The Cornishman said he sympathised with fisherman who have “their boats tied up because they have used all their quota” but there was a need to “show restraint” if the fishing industry was to prosper.
Surely a Minister whose job it is to know about the fishing industry must realize that the whole problem with quotas, though important to those it affects, is not the cause but the effect. The cause of the problem remains the common fisheries policy, a centralized, political structure in which decisions are taken by 28 member states for reasons that often have nothing to do with fishing.