Friday, 28 October 2011

What goes around comes around

Let us look back to 2003. The then Chairman of FAL, Tom Hay, gave the following presentation to the All-Party Parliamentary Fisheries Group:

Presentation To The All Party Parliamentary Fisheries Group
Tuesday 3 June 2003


In "Fishing News" 8th November last year, the Chairman of the Fisheries Committee in the EU Parliament, Struan Stevenson, stated categorically that the draconian proposals, which are now a reality, had nothing to do with conservation.

They were he said part of a European "Federalist " agenda to hand over the bulk of European fishing to Spain. The Commission will exploit scientific recommendations, he continued, to close down the British white fish sector as a golden opportunity to help them meet their target capacity cuts in one fell swoop, and thus enable Spain, with the largest fleet to dominate the fishing industry.

Ten years previous to this, on 11th June 1992 the Commission sent across to the Scalloway College in Shetland a lady called Ruth Albuquerque, one of their senior Cabinet Members responsible for Fisheries Policy, who warned the industry that the way forward as envisaged by the Commission for the re-structure of the industry would involve thousands of fishermen losing their jobs.

At that time fish of all species were plentiful on most if not all of the fishing grounds, in the North Sea and West Coast waters around the UK. Sadly however through clever manipulation by MAAF, and the Scottish Office, and in collaboration with certain persons within the industry this ominous threat was quickly downplayed, and finally forgotten altogether.

The Spanish Treaty of Accession makes it absolutely clear that from 1st January 2003, Spanish fishermen as well as Portuguese have the right of "Equal Access" without discrimination to a "Common Resource" in all "European Waters" beyond the 12 mile zone, including the North Sea. This is confirmed by the legal experts of the Council Working Party, and in reference to the exclusion of Spanish and Portuguese fleets for 16 years, Fisheries Minister Miguel Arias Canete said that the European Commission had finally put an end to discrimination against the Spanish fleet in Community waters.

Let us not be deceived again. Political assurances to the contrary are only temporary partial deliverances from the exacting legal demands of the Treaties. The Treaties are brutally clear. All fish within the waters of EU maritime nations are a common resource to which all EU states have an "Equal Right of Access". Everything else is a cruel deception, intended to soften, temporarily, the force of the real disaster for British fishermen, until they are judged to be so weakened that they will be unable to resist the continuing treachery of those disloyal politicians who are eager to sacrifice British fishermen on the altar of their fantasies of a "United Europe".

The savagery of the cuts in Quota over recent years, and now the limited amount of days per month our fishermen are allowed to go to sea, have been camouflaged by Franz Fischler and the British government, in a skilful and cynical manner to justify their fictitious claims of a desperate conservation crisis in cod stocks. They have assumed that this unscrupulous attempt to conceal their disgraceful and ruinous plans to destroy the British fleet, and thus make room for the Spanish, the Portuguese, and new entrants such as Poland and the Baltic States in 2004, would be readily accepted by fishermen, just as some of their leaders, who have fallen for this clever trick for years, have been conned into believing. Franz Fischler and New Labour are wrong! They are fooling no one but themselves.

Those who seek to justify the disgraceful surrender of one of our greatest National assets, have found no expedient too contemptible, and no deceit too mean, in their desperate efforts to conceal the grim reality of what has been done to our fishermen, and to our people, to whom those vast stocks of fish within our legally held Exclusive Fishing Zone rightly belong.

British fishing grounds, British fishing rights, and British fish stocks are the indisputable possession of the British people according to British, and International Law. No politician had the right to surrender their property without their consent. But they did, and the stark reality which now faces our fishermen as a result is, that they have to be driven out of what should be their own fishing grounds, to let the others in.

Looking back through Hansard, I find a proud role of honour of Labour M.P's who warned from the very beginning in the early seventies, of the disastrous consequences, which are now upon us, of accepting the bizarre, ruinous, anti-British doctrine that all fish under the jurisdiction of Member States were to become a "Common Resource" to which all Common Market fishermen had an "Equal Right of Access". A doctrine which is being laughed at outside the European Empire of waste and corruption. Tony Blair would call these honourable, and loyal servants of the British people, unpatriotic xenophobic propagandists. He is again deluding nobody but himself.

FAL has researched this matter exhaustively in conjunction with "Save Britain's Fish", and on the basis of the most authoritative legal testimony. We are thoroughly convinced that the only possible way of rescuing the British Fishing industry from certain disaster, is through the restoration of National control by a United Kingdom Act of Parliament, over these waters legally under our jurisdiction, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982.

There is no other way!

That Tom Hay should speak those fighting words should surprise no-one. The problem we face concerns Struan Stevenson who also seemed to be using fighting words in 2002. He is now the Senior Vice President of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee (how many Vice Presidents does one committee need?) and Rapporteur for the Report for the Common Organization of the Market. Does he still hold the views he expressed nine years ago? We await an answer from the long-standing member of the European Parliament with interest.

The various organizations that represent Spanish "the fishing, aquaculture, seafood product canning and processing sectors from Spain, along with unions" are not happy. It seems that there has been an international campaign to discredit them. This blog joined that campaign when it published certain financial facts on the subject. But, sadly, we received no money from those evil foundations, "Oak Foundation (Switzerland), The Waterloo Foundation (Wales, United Kingdom) and Adessium Foundation (Netherlands)" that are supposed to be funding this campaign. How does one go about getting some of their evil money?

Stephen Phillips MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham put the following Question to HMG:

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proposals she has made to the European Commission on amending the common fisheries policy.

It was Richard Benyon who replied, not the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman but, really, what does that matter? The meaningless response was clearly written by the minions in DEFRA:

The UK Government are committed to achieving genuine and radical reform of the common fisheries policy (CFP). The European Commission's proposals for reform are a welcome start but we need to work with others—including member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission—to agree the changes necessary to deliver real reform. In particular, UK proposals are aimed at eliminating discards, decentralisation of decision-making, a more economically rational fisheries management system, greater integration of fisheries and environmental management, and also applying the principles of sustainable use both outside EU waters and within.

I wonder how HMG feels about motherhood and apple-pie?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

What is happening in the House of Commons?

There has been a great deal of misleading information about the debate that is due to take place on Monday, October 24 [scroll down past the Questions to Main Business]. It will not be an EU debate and it will not be a debate to have a referendum. It will be a Backbench Motion, put down by Conservative MP David Nuttall and signed by a number of other MPs of various parties:

That this House calls upon the Government to introduce a Bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the United Kingdom should

(a) remain a member of the European Union on the current terms;

(b) leave the European Union; or

(c) re-negotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation.

The Motion, if passed, will signify to the Government that the House wants legislation in the next session of Parliament, which will not be opened till the spring as the Coalition Government decided not to have the traditional autumn State Opening, for the country to have a referendum. It is the only way there can be a referendum in the UK - through Parliamentary legislation.

From the above we can see that what is being proposed is not an IN/OUT referendum but a three-option one with the possibility (and, given what the campaign is likely to be, the probability) of people voting for the rather pointless but sensible sounding third option.

It is pointless because the terms of the UK's membership cannot be renegotiated without a major change in the treaties and that cannot happen except at an Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) with the unanimous agreement of all the Member States both through their representatives at it and back home when the new treaty has to be ratified. If Britain wants to renegotiate the terms of her membership while staying in the EU the other Member States will want various conditions in return for agreeing to the new terms.

There will be an extra complication. A number of amendments have been put down [listed below the main Motion] which aim to water down an already weak proposal. The debate is likely to take the whole afternoon and evening with, presumably, a division at around 10.

At present, all three main parties are supposed to issue a three-line whip to their MPs for them to vote against the Motion (though, possibly, in favour of some of the amendments). It is not clear how many MPs will defy that whip.

The Motion, even if it passes, is not binding and the Coalition Government can ignore it. That would probably be unwise: governments are not supposed to ignore the clearly expressed view of the House. But, as pointed out above, even if the House expresses that view, there will be no relevant legislation until well into next year with a possible referendum in a year's time.

How does this affect fishing and the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy? The hope is that even if details of all that is wrong with our membership of the EU are not aired in Monday's debate, they will be when and if the process of passing an EU Referendum Bill will take place. There will then be plenty of opportunity to point out that the CFP has been an absolute disaster and we need to come out of that. It will, undoubtedly be argued that we should negotiate the terms of our membership in order to reclaim control of our fishing waters. This blog has discussed the matter here and here.

It is even possible that the subject will be raised on Monday.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Technical problems have now been solved (we hope) and it is possible to see whether comments have been posted and how many on the actual blog. We hope this will encourage discussion on the subjects dear to the heart of our readers.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


There has been a technical hitch with comments. People do leave them and they can be read but, for some reason, their existence does not show up on the blog. Thus subsequent readers are unaware of the fact that a conversation has been started. Given that we want conversation on this blog, this is a serious problem and the technical department has been alerted. Unfortunately the alerting happened on Friday evening and so there will be no solution till Monday.

In the meantime, we shall publish the two recent comments here so readers should be able to see them.

There was a comment on the posting entitled Christopher Booker comes out fighting from PeterD:

Interesting - but not new news! The SNP knew this long before they came to power, after all there were close ties to Norway for many years and the Norwegians will certainly have explained the best use of Europe to our now government.
Fishermen have known this too and have pressed the point well home but nothing changes. It never will while we have a government who insist that a Fisheries Secretary can also double up as an Environmental Secretary.

There really is little to add to those cogent points except to say that the comment could just as easily have been made on another posting: Scottish Parliament debates the CFP. It would be no less true.

A comment from Roddy on These people suffer from amnesia says:

It is a pity Mr Major didn't pronounce his current thoughts on the EU when he had the political power to do something about it. The Foreign Office is still pro-EU, despite everything, for political reasons, not economic ones.

The unbelievable confusion and disorder in today’s British Fishing Industry is a direct result of the British Parliament transferring exclusive legal competence to “Brussels” for the conservation and management of all living marine resources within British waters, and accepting by Treaty that the principle of equal access to those waters and their resources should prevail.

Today we are confronted with the consequent catastrophe which now overwhelms our fishermen, as “Brussels” forces them out of their own fishing grounds in favour of an increasingly predatory armada of Spanish and other E.U. fishing vessels.

Never has the British fishing industry faced such dire peril, and there is only one clear unobstructed way of escape --- to permanently remove the principle of equal access to a common resource, by re-establishing our own 200 mile to median line Exclusive Fishing Zone, which rightly belongs to the British people according to International Law, and to control these waters from Westminster instead of Brussels. There is no other way of escape!

To say that this cannot be done is either a wilful fabrication of the truth, or total ignorance of British Constitutional Law.

To a great extent this confirms what the posting said about Mr Major's (or Sir John Major's) amnesia about his own record on matters to do with fishing. Two points need to be added. The principle of national waters extending to 200 miles or the median line was established in 1976 in the aftermath of the Cod Wars when The Fishery Limits Act was passed. This states categorically in the first Article:

(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, British fishery limits extend to 200 miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea adjacent to the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man is measured.

(2) Her Majesty may by Order in Council, for the purpose of implementing any international agreement or the arbitral award of an international body, or otherwise, declare that British fishery limits extend to such other line as may be specified in the Order.

(3) Where the median line defined below is less than 200 miles from the baselines referred to in subsection (1), and no other line is for the time being specified by Order in Council under subsection (2), British fishery limits extend to the median line.

(4) The median line is a line every point of which is equi-distant from the nearest points of, on the one hand, the baselines referred to in subsection (1) and, on the other hand, the corresponding baselines of other countries.

(5) Subject to section 10(2)(b) below, references to British fishery limits in any enactment for the time being in force relating to sea fishing or whaling are to the limits set by or under this section.

The Act was passed several years after the UK's accession to the EEC and the imposition without any Treaty basis of the Common Fisheries Policy, which is, in its original intention, equal access to what is termed a "common resource". It would appear that the new legislation trumped the CFP and would keep other fishing fleets out unless there was a specific agreement.

To get round this problem and to adhere to the principle of equal access the government passed a series of Orders in Council, as specified in Point (2), which allowed each of the other member states access to what was supposedly by legislation British territorial waters. [As soon as possible we shall post links to some of them.]

Another point that we need to add is that, sadly, British Constitutional Law has been changed out of all recognition through a series of treaties, which were passed into British legislation through Amendments to the European Communities Act of 1972. We are now locked into those treaties and to change any arrangement need to negotiate our way out, which can certainly be done, despite what politicians tell us. Or we can run up the equivalent of the South Carolina flag and announce that we no longer wish to accept certain parts of those treaties, specifically those to do with our fisheries. One way or another we need to restore our own Parliament's legislative supremacy. Nothing else will suffice.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

These people suffer from amnesia

Politicians' amnesia is a wonderful thing to behold. They say things with a straight face having, apparently, forgotten their own past history.

Take Sir John Major, for instance. He is everywhere, pronouncing on subjects to do with the European Union and all the things that are going wrong with it as well as all the problems it is causing for the UK. Yet, what is it that we mostly remember about Sir John's own premiership, when he was a plain Mr Major? The disastrous ERM, which he would not leave until this country's economy nearly collapsed and, luckily for us, we were effectively thrown out of it; and the Maastricht Treaty, which he forced through Parliament though after the first Danish referendum there was a golden opportunity to stop the whole integrating process that the treaty was speeding up.

Conservative Home quotes Sir John's "wide-ranging" interview with Andrew Marr:

He predicted that the EU had "fundamentally changed" because of member states' flouting of the Maastricht criteria and because of the movement to an "unsafe" Eurozone. We would now see, the former Prime Minister predicted, what he and Douglas Hurd had advocated in the 1990s. Europe would follow a model of "variable geometry" with different member states working at different levels. He predicted that Eurozone members would seek their own Treaty and gradually forge fiscal union characterised by tax harmonisation and budgetary control. This, he said, was an opportunity for a looser union and for the UK to repatriate control over parts of employment law, notably the Working Time Directive; financial services regulation; and control of Britain's fishing industry. EU leaders had to realise, he continued, that 27 member states could not operate in the same unified way as when there were much fewer members.

It appears that Sir John has forgotten that the Common Fisheries Policy was written into the treaties only in 1992, that is the Treaty of Maastricht, his particular treaty [as discussed here]. Nor do we remember Mr Major's government being in the forefront of the battle for the control of Britain's fishing industry. Not so, but far from it. Does he really not remember any of it?

While we all debate the various ways the so-called reform of the Common Fisheries Policy might affect various fishing fleets and fishing ports, it might be a good idea to have a look at what is happening with the largest of the EU fishing fleets, the Spanish one.

An article on EUObserver, published in association with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an organization that has been spending time on investigating the operation of the Common Fisheries Policy with regards to Spanish practices, gives us some interesting though not surprising information.

Decades of overfishing have left Europe’s fish stocks in peril and its fishermen in poverty. It’s an impasse paid for by EU taxpayers. Yet a proposed revision of the EU’s fishing law, hailed as sweeping reform, is rapidly losing momentum.

A look at the industry’s biggest player - Spain - shows what officials are up against. Billions of euros in subsidies built its bloated fleet and propped up a money-losing industry. All the while, companies systematically flout the rules while officials overlook fraud and continue to fund offenders, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.

Well, dear me. So those officials are up against the problems of Spain claiming and getting huge subsidies and flouting the rules? And exactly who created the system in which this situation became possible? Not the officials, perchance, with politicians nodding everything through in order to be seen communautaire and, maybe, getting a deal somewhere else?

So let's have a look at those figures:
The Spanish fishing industry has received more than €5.8 billion (more than $8 billion and just over £5 billion) in subsidies since 2000 for everything from building new vessels and breaking down old ships to payments for retiring fishermen and training for the next generation, an fresh analysis by ICIJ shows.

Subsidies account for almost a third of the value of the industry. Simply put, nearly one in three fish caught on a Spanish hook or raised in a Spanish farm is paid for with public money.

And that is not all.

ICIJ’s analysis is the first in-depth look at just how much public aid Spain has received for fishing - primarily from EU taxpayers, but also from Madrid and regional governments. The country has cornered a third of all the EU’s fishing aid since 2000, far more than any other member state. The central government doles out even more for things such as low interest loans and funding for its largest industry associations, which in turn lobby the EU for more industry subsidies, records show. Since 2000, the sector has avoided paying €2 billion in taxes on fuel to the Spanish Treasury.

Public monies also fund a surprising range of services. More than €82 million ($114 million) has been spent to promote the fishing sector through advertising and at trade shows. After fishing vessels were hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean, Spain in 2009 changed its law to allow vessels to hire private security forces onboard, and then it helped foot the bill to the tune of €2.8 million.

The root of the problem, regulators say, is that out-of-control subsidies encourage countries to build up already oversized fleets that are rapidly depleting the seas.

Well, some countries, anyway, and as mentioned above, the regulators created this system.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

DEFRA launches another discussion

DEFRA has launched a discussion on the future of seafish.

Today, a discussion with the industry on the future of Seafish is launched by Defra and the Devolved Fisheries Administrations (Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (Northern Ireland)), supported by the Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish). This discussion seeks views on key themes identified in the Cleasby Review and will help frame the Government’s response to the review.

All the information is available on the link above as well as instructions on how to submit opinions.