Friday, 6 January 2012

What happened in 1970 - 1

It is time, we have decided, to go back to basics and trace some of the elements of the Common Fisheries Policy. It is no great secret that the policy and its incarnation, EEC Council Regulation 2141/70, was cobbled together hastily and illegally according to the EEC's own laws (more details in another posting) a few months before the applications of four countries with the richest fishing waters, UK, Ireland, Denmark and Norway were put in. Since applicants have to negotiate on the basis of the acquis communautaire, that is existing legislation, the CFP had to be shoe-horned into it.

Whether by design or, more likely, incompetence the FCO and the relevant politicians did not wake up in time to realize how serious that problem would be for Britain and its fishing. Rather desperately Edward Heath negotiated a derogation up to the 6 mile limit, then found that Ireland and Norway demanded control of waters up to the 12 mile limit. The story is told in The Great Deception by Christopher Booker and Richard North.

There is an interesting aspect to that sorry tale. Norway, as the authors point out, passed a law that limited the size of vessels allowed into the 6 to 12 mile zone. This was a blow to the British deep sea trawlers. They then add a note:

A question which inevitably arises when looking back at the fisheries episode is why Britain and the other applicant countries did not band together to insist that the 'equal access' rule was unacceptable. It is clear from the FCO papers that this was rejected because Britain's distant-water fishing companies, then the biggest players in the fishing industry, saw in 'equal access' a chance to win greater access to Norwegian waters. In the end, of course, Norway did not join and within a few years most of those companies disappeared. 
The tale of this country's membership of what was then the EEC and is now the EU is complicated with such details. It is not a tale of simple foreign domination but a disastrous one, nonetheless.


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