Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The haggling starts

The Fisheries Council meets in December and a good deal of horse-trading (make that fish-trading) will be going on in the next few month. reports of the first round:

The European Commission today called for a halt to cod fishing for the whole of next year off the West of Scotland and in the Irish Sea in a bid to boost conservation.

The crackdown is part of proposed EU catch allowances unveiled today which signal the start of intense haggling over quotas for fishing fleets in the run-up to a final deal in December.

More news of horse-trading fish-trading as it comes in.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Scottish Parliament debates the CFP

On the one hand, it is entirely praiseworthy of the Scottish Assembly to have a debate about the Common Fisheries Policy. On the other hand, it must remain a frustrating exercise, though the Assembly Members seem unaware of that, because there is very little they can do about it, beyond hoping that the so-called reforms will somehow benefit Scotland. Then there is the problem, which we face with most of our politicians, whether they are in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast: there seems to be a remarkable lack of knowledge about the subject.

Take this exchange, for instance:

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (Richard Lochhead) says during his introductory comments:

Ever since the Tories deemed our fishing industry expendable, took us into the common fisheries policy, and gave away our fishing rights into the bargain, Scotland’s fishing communities and our fish stocks have paid a heavy price.

Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con) intervenes:

Will the member check his history? He will then realise that although we became party to the common fisheries policy under the Thatcher Government in 1983, it was as part of an agreement that was signed in 1978 by the preceding Labour Government.

Sigh. They are both wrong. This country (all of it, not just Scotland) had the CFP foisted on it during the negotiations for the entry into the EEC (or Common Market as some people prefer to call it), using completely illegitimate references to Articles that allowed for a common market in trade not a common area for fishing. [Even the European Movement kind of acknowledges that in the summary linked to above.]

Do these people not know about Regulation 101/76, the one that lays down "a common structural policy for the fishing industry"?

No, I suppose they do not. Clearly they also do not know that it was not till 1992 that the CFP became part of the treaties, specifically, the Maastricht Treaty, where Article 38 in title II that deals with Agriculture stated:

The common market shall extend to agriculture and trade in agricultural products. "Agricultural products means the products of the soil, of stockfarming and of fisheries and products of first-stage processing directly related to these products.

Hey presto, the Common Fisheries Policy was now part of the treaty and not to be removed except by unanimity.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Christopher Booker comes out fighting

As a headline that comes under the same heading as "Dog bites man" or "Gardener digs soil". Nevertheless, it is always good fun as well as instructive to read Christopher Booker's take on developments among the so-called "eurosceptics" in the Conservative Party.

We have already noted one group of these benighted MPs and wondered whether they would ever get to grips with important details of the European project. There is now, as Booker points out, another group, clearly worried that if they do not polish up their eurosceptic credentials they might lose a few thousand votes in the next election.

Some 120 “Eurosceptic” Tory MPs, we are told, are calling for a “redrawing of our relationship with Europe”. We must “repatriate powers”. William Hague says “Britain could benefit from loosening its ties with Europe”.

This is, as we have pointed out in previous postings, a ridiculous stand: Britain cannot loosen its ties with Europe because Britain is a member of the European Union and the only way of loosening those ties is by coming out, not of Europe, which is a ridiculous idea, but of a specific political construct. Then we can renegotiate our various trade and other agreements with individual states and, if that survives, the European Union.

Meanwhile, as Christopher Booker so rightly says about one of the instances of mea culpa, in this case that of the high and mighty Sir Max Hastings,

Sir Max has never grasped the real nature of this mighty project or the vision behind it, which is finally colliding with reality.

For 50 years, building itself up step by step into a form of supra-national government, the “European project” has only ever had one aim – to take away ever more powers of member states to govern their own affairs. It has had no more sacred principle than the acquis commmunautaire, which lays down that once powers have been handed to the centre they can never be given back.

No sentence in Hastings’s piece was more poignant than his observation that “in its early decades the Common Market was a benign institution, set up to liberalise trade”. He still cannot grasp that the Common Market was only ever intended as a first step towards the ultimate goal, the embryo of everything the EU has since become, – a vast overblown system of government reaching into almost every area of our lives, and symbolised above all by its hubristic desire for its own single currency.

That being so,

the response of President Hermann Van Rompuy –possessed by precisely the same hubris that has built up the EU into all it is today - is to say that the only remedy is that we must have “more Europe”.

From our point of view, the matter is clear. The Common Fisheries Policy was one of the first experiments (and what a disaster it has been!) in the process of integration and creation of a supranational government.

Many people who are aware of the general wrongness of the CFP from social, economic and environmental points of view seem unable to grasp this. They call for reforms here and there while the EU maintains, rightly from their point of view, that the only answer to the problems is the tightening up of the policy, which should kick in with all its real consequences, centrally, and an ever less likelihood of national control being restored.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Latest Kingfisher Bulletin is out

Follow the link and scroll down.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Will they talk about the fisheries?

A new eurosceptic group of Tory MPs gathered today for their inaugural meeting. 120 attended, among them a number of new(ish) boys and girls, which indicates rather strongly that they do not think their careers will suffer if they join this lot.

So far they sound vague but optimistic with little detail about their plans or intentions.

Backbencher George Eustice, one of its conveners, said there is a strong desire to see "a clear plan" for how to pull the UK back from Brussels.

"The euro crisis could arrive on our doorstep at any time. We need to have a very clear British foreign policy for how we can take powers back," he said.

He added there are many recently elected MPs as well as long-time campaigners at the meeting, which was attended by a number of frontbenchers.

But he said that while the meeting agreed urgent work was needed, nobody wanted to return to the days when Europe dominated.

There are no plans to announce any initiatives at next month's party conference though there will undoubtedly be fierce debate on the fringes.

He also talked of the likelihood of there being a new treaty before the end of the year (leaving that a little late) and that could be an opportunity for Britain to repatriate powers. He did not say what the government might have to offer to the other member states as a sweetener for them to accept whatever new plans the group might come up with and get accepted by the leadership.

The big question from our point of view remains whether the new group will look at the most obvious place to start and the most obvious policy to repatriate: the fisheries. Until they mention that word we beg leave to doubt their intentions.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Some might think this is irrelevant

But we do not think so. What happened ten years ago remains of supreme relevance to us all. So let us take a little time off immediate problems and remember.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Part of the problem we all face

This story in yesterday's Daily Telegraph about the holiday-maker at Ilfracombe complaining about the sight of dead fish unloaded by a trawler and describing his children as being traumatized by it all may seem very funny. Well, it is funny and one can only respect the Harbour Master for being so courteous to a man who clearly has no understanding of the most basic facts of life.

This does, however, point to one of the serious problems all food producers, particularly fishermen and meat producers at various stages, face. Though there is a vague good feeling towards the "fishermen of England" (and Scotland, Wales and Ireland) the reality of what is involved is often ignored and pushed out of people's minds. It often clashes with the slightly rosy view of the sea, first developed with the growth of sea-side holidays in the nineteenth century, and disturbs the notion of food just appearing without any unpleasantness. This leads to deliberate ignorance and that, in turn, leads to a paucity of support for the fishing industry in its battle for survival and genuinely sustainable fishing.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Latest Kingfisher Bulletin is out

It can be found on the website but you need to scroll down for the links to individual bulletins and subjects.

This blog is not about to become involved in what looks like a very nasty civil war in the Scottish Conservative Party over the question of whether it should disband itself and re-form itself as a new party that happens to be just like the old one. What is interesting about the proposals put forward by the favourite to succeed to the leadership, Murdo Fraser, is the following:

Fraser believes that the party should have different policies from the UK Conservative Party, particularly on fishing (he advocates withdrawal from the European Common Fisheries Policy) and on defence (he supports the retention of Scottish air bases). But crucially, he believes the new party has to be really positive about devolution and embrace the Scottish Parliament in a way that the Scottish Conservative Party has often had trouble doing.

This confirms, if confirmation were needed that the Conservative Party in general believes in membership of the ruinous Common Fisheries Policy - something we should all remember the next time the Tories try to put themselves forward as the true eurosceptics.

ConHome has the video that explains Mr Fraser's rather convoluted reasoning and emphasises his attitude to the CFP>