As we have mentioned on this blog, Sheryl Murray MP for South East Cornwall is now the Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fisheries and we do expect great things from her.

She has written a piece for Conservative Way Forward about EU renegotiations and the fishing industry, which is good enough as a starting point but we do hope she will go further. Actually, we fully expect her to do so.

Most of the piece is a useful summary of the history of the fishing industry since the seventies and the unhelpfulness of the Common Fisheries Policy with which we agree entirely though we would have preferred greater emphasis on the fact that this is a political structure with decisions being made at the centre with close regard to the essence of the policy that Ms Murray does mention:

Enshrined in every Basic Regulation after that time is the Principle of, “Equal Access to a Common Resource”.

This is enshrined because it is the basis of that agreement and has actually been in the treaties since the Maastricht one of evil fame.

The much touted reforms have not altered that by a whisker or a fishbone. Equal access and common resource are still the guiding principles.

Sheryll Murray ends the piece with the following words:

As David Cameron pushes for better terms for the British people in his renegotiation talks with the EU, we all have a unique opportunity to finally put fishing at the heart of discussions. Now is the time for the Prime Minister to rectify the dreadful mistakes of the past and include restoration of national control over the UK 200 mile median line limit so we can operate freely just like our neighbours in Iceland and Norway.

Indeed, we would like to be in the same position as Iceland and Norway: we would like to control our own fishing waters and negotiate on our own behalf. There is, as it happens, only one way of achieving that state of affairs: by leaving the Common Fisheries Policy and repatriating powers over the fishing industry to this country. So far, the Prime Minister has shown no sign of negotiating that exit.

There is an organization in Parliament called Better Off Out. It consists of a number of MPs and Peers who believe not only that we should have a referendum on whether we want to stay in the European Union - that battle seems to have been won with only the SNP, rather bizarrely, opposing it - but also that we should eventually get out. The group also includes other organizations and individuals who share that view and, already, the discussion on how best to win that referendum has begun.

FAL's representative contributed an obvious idea: the Common Fisheries Policy is an economic and ecological disaster and those so-called reforms have changed nothing seriously. (There will be some more blogs on that subject in the near future.) Withdrawal from it would be greeted on all sides of the political spectrum though possibly not by the SNP, whose thinking about the EU remains erratic.

There are two ways of using this. One is to keep insisting that David Cameron, in his negotiations, put repatriation of the fisheries policy on the table. Some preliminary work has been done by Lord Stoddart of Swindon on that as this blog has pointed out but HMG continues to prevaricate and side-step the issue. Could our readers not lobby their MPs on the subject? After all, the Prime Minister wants to bring back the best deal for the country and what could be better for it if the management of fisheries as well as negotiations with other fishing countries such as Norway and Iceland were back in our hands?

Secondly, we can start trying to persuade people that if we cannot get control of the fisheries back (or control of anything else) we should leave the EU through legitimate means and think about how we would run affairs in the business ourselves.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Yet more avoidance of the subject

As this blog reported Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked HMG whether they intended to discuss repatriation of agriculture and fisheries (the last a potentially very popular move in this country) in their negotiations about EU reform and got a very evasive answer.

Not satisfied with that he went back into the fray and asked HMG:

further to the Written Answer by Lord Gardiner of Kimble on 11 June, whether the Prime Minister has yet discussed with other European Union leaders the repatriation of agriculture and fisheries policies to member states, and what position he has taken in those discussions.

Um, no, is the answer though phrased somewhat differently by Lord Gardiner of Kimble or, to be quite precise, his minions:

Discussions are at an early stage. My reply of 11 June referred to some of the areas where the Government believes the EU needs to change.

It did not mention fisheries. Does that mean that it might be raised as a subject at some later stage?

Sheryll Murray, MP for South-East Cornwall, who has been involved in various organizations to do with fishing, such as Save Britain's Fish and FAL, has put up this message on her wall on Facebook:

I was very pleased to be elected Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Fisheries and am hoping the Group will undertake some reports on various fisheries issues. I am pleased that the group has elected Vice Chairmen from Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP and SDLP parties and look forward to working together to get the best for our fishermen.

I would like to pay tribute to Austin Mitchell who was Chairman of the Group for so many years. Indeed, I attended many meetings of the Group myself as an Industry representative since 1991.

We look forward to working with Sheryll and have already approached her with a hope and expectation of seeing many useful reports on the reality of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The blog will have a full list of the members as soon as it will be available.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Good question, poor answer

Lord Stoddart of Swindon, a fighter of many years' standing against the European Union and, particularly, against the Common Fisheries Policy, put down the following Written Question:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will press for negotiations for the reform of the European Union to include the repatriation of agriculture and fisheries powers to member states.

If there is one set of powers we need to repatriate it is that of fisheries but is the Prime Minister likely to negotiate that? Well, not according to HMG's reply:

The Prime Minister has started to discuss his plans for EU reform and renegotiation with other EU leaders. He has been clear that the plans involve reforming welfare and immigration rules, increasing economic competitiveness and cutting red tape to create jobs and growth for hard working families, and protecting the UK’s interests outside the euro. It also means halting the constant flow of powers to Brussels including by ensuring a stronger role for national Parliaments.

Is that a yes or a no?

The European Commission has published its annual consultation paper in preparation for setting next year's fish quota later in the year. It is now asking for the views of Member States, the fishing industry and non-governmental organisations in regional Advisory Councils, as well as interested citizens and organisations via an online public consultation. The input will be used by the Commission when it will be making for the 2016 fishing opportunities during this autumn.

You can find the full text of the Consultation on the fishing opportunities for 2016 under the Common Fisheries Policy here and the conditions for the consultation here.

In Westminster the debates on the Queen's Speech go on and the SNP representatives, having made themselves somewhat objectionable by their behaviour in and out of the Chamber, are settling down though they will insist on wearing a white rose, which they insist is that of Scotland while others suggest might be of Yorkshire. We suspect that discussion will run on and on.

One of the speakers in the debate was Stephen Gethins, MP for North East Fife, an almost unexpected victory for his party, and the SNP spokesman for Europe. He is also a man who has spent his career in the NGO sector, much of which receives money from the EU. As has been pointed out on this blog, the SNP stand on "Europe" is somewhat incoherent and, at present, they seem to be against the IN/OUT referendum, with Nicola Sturgeon, the incoming First Minister maintaining that it would be undemocratic to impose the results of that referendum on Scotland.

There are two points that Ms Sturgeon seems to have ignored. One is the obvious one that the people of Scotland had voted decisively to stay in the United Kingdom and did so in the full knowledge that there might soon be an EU referendum, which will be done on a national and not regional basis. Unless Ms Sturgeon is arguing that the people of Scotland are uniquely stupid and, therefore, their opinion can be set aside as being of no real value backed by no understanding, she had better accept that. We may add that if Ms Sturgeon really knew Scottish history and the history of Scotland in the world, she would realize how very untrue that is.

Secondly, as we have suggested before, it is not impossible that in the IN/OUT referendum Scotland as a whole will also vote for the UK to come out of the European Union. What then? What will Ms Sturgeon say then?

Back to Mr Gethins, who made a very creditable maiden speech, observing all the rules, thanking the Speaker for the help the new boys and girls on the block had been given and referring with admiration though obvious political disagreement to his predecessor in North East Fife, Sir Menzies Campbell.

He then enumerated the various developments in his constituency, all of which require international trade, something we would have even outside the EU but, clearly Mr Gethins thinks that because the products of the excellent distilleries in his constituency need to be and will be sold, we ought to start thinking about a common EU defence policy. Not a particularly logical thought.

However, it seems that not everything in the garden is lovely:

None of us on the SNP Benches is saying Europe does not need reforms. The common fisheries policy has had a devastating impact on communities across my constituency in the East Neuk of Fife and elsewhere across Scotland, as my colleagues will testify. Similarly, the expensive practice of moving the Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg every month defies any logic in these times of straitened budgets.

Gosh, really? You mean the devastation that the CFP wrought on the British fishing industry is in the same category as the, admittedly ridiculous, monthly circus of moving the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg (which is also written into the treaties, incidentally)? Do Mr Gethins's constituents know that his thinking is along those lines?

More to the point, exactly how does Mr Gethins propose to reform the fisheries policy in any meaningful way while we stay in it and in the EU?