Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Is it any wonder ....

... that Norwegians do not want to join the EU? After all, they are not blind or stupid. They know what the CFP has done to the fishing industry and fishing resources of this countr.

Tom Hay, the Honorary Chairman of FAL, continues in his efforts to educate our politicians. Here is a letter he wrote to Ian Hudghton an SNP representative in the European Parliament, where the party is a member of the Greens/European Free Alliance Group for voting and funding purposes and he, himself, sits on the Committee on Fisheries. A copy of the letter went to Struan Stevenson MEP, Vice-Chair of that Committee, who has been mentioned on this blog before.

The letter is being published with Tom's permission.

Dear Ian,

It was good to see you in the Waterside Inn this past Friday the 30th March 2012.

I am sure that the thoughts which gave rise to the statement you made publicly in Aviemore a few years ago that FAL was right, must revolve around your mind oftentimes, as you witness the continued deliberate destruction of the British White fish fleet, as it desperately struggles to survive, only a stone’s throw away from its almost inevitable collapse.

Be that as it may, I was visibly shaken, and astonished that you sought to proffer the thought, that the horrendous anti-British principle of “equal access” to our fishing grounds, and living marine resources might only be a threat. Every Nation which has become a member of the European Union both with, and without a maritime sea-board, has agreed by treaty to accept that principle.

The Commission has gone out of its way for years, to make it absolutely clear that the “acquis communautaire” for marine fisheries is free access to waters on a non discriminatory basis for all member states fleets, for all species of fish within the waters of all EU maritime nations, and that the “acquis” is not negotiable. Actual negotiations are limited to transitional arrangements or derogations, but for as long as the European Union continues, the “acquis communautaire” remains sacrosanct”.

It is outwith the bounds of EU law for a derogation to override a treaty. If a derogation could at any time wipe out a treaty, what would be the point of having a treaty in the first place? Furthermore one member state or an applicant nation such as Iceland, (if they are foolish enough) cannot amend a treaty without the unanimous consent of all the other member states. Treaty amendments have usually been made at inter governmental conferences which are usually held once every four years, although this time limit is not unalterable, but every head of state must be at the summit, and the decision taken must be unanimous.

If on the other hand the UK Parliament argued that a continuance of the present derogation was a vital national interest of ours, and the Spanish or any other member state argued that its discontinuation was equally a vital national interest of theirs, and if all negotiations failed, as could easily happen, and perhaps would most likely happen, the disagreement would have to be brought before the European Court of Justice. The Court would without the least shadow of doubt find that the derogation must end, and the full thrust of the “equal access” principle as prescribed by the treaties must be introduced.

The simple fact is therefore, however unpalatable it may be, that any other member state of the EU in this sequence of events, could veto the continuance of the derogation after 2012, but we cannot by veto ensure its continuance. 

The European Union’s plan of action to get rid of the British fishing fleet is quite clear, especially to those of us who have experienced the most awful persecution and humiliation of the 1983 derogation. The Brussels bureaucracy deviously planned and cleverly masterminded the concept, that our fishermen should be guided towards the establishment of a single European Union fleet, on a non discriminatory basis, with no increase in fishing effort without them ever knowing what was happening.

They believed that this could best be accomplished by successive steps, each craftily disguised as emphasising the need for more and more conservation, but which when taken together would inevitably and irreversibly lead to the annihilation of the British fleet. Thus with characteristic arrogance and contempt for ordinary hard working people, these lavishly paid and incompetent officials have assumed that British fishermen could be deluded, however reluctantly, into co-operating in their own extermination.

The European Court of Justice has stated that the Community system of national quotas is a derogation from the general rule of equal conditions of access to fishery resources, and the principle of non-discrimination laid down in Article 40(3) of the treaty. I have a top secret, classified, confidential document, which was leaked to me from a government department which clearly states this. I am prepared to let you see it sometime if you should so wish. So how can the 1983 fisheries agreement be the Common Fisheries Policy, and a derogation from it at the same time? Those who knowingly continue to propagate this lie, are highly skilled in the deception, since it serves the purpose of deceiving our fishermen into believing that the Common Fisheries Policy can be reformed, when indeed it cannot!

In October 17 2003, not all that long after the end of the 2002 derogation, it was reported from the EU Fisheries Conference in Southern Ireland, and I quote --- Spanish fishermen will be given access to some of Europe’s most sensitive fishing grounds under a deal agreed by EU Fisheries Ministers. They have agreed to open almost 10,000 square miles off the Irish coast, until now been deemed environmentally sensitive. The deal to allow access to a quarter of the restricted area ignored opposition from Ireland, Britain, France and Portugal. The Irish Box, a 50 mile exclusion zone round the Irish coast has been seen as one of the most important spawning and nursery grounds in EU waters. 

Neil Parish MEP, Conservative Spokesman on Fisheries in the European Parliament, said “ This decision is totally hypocritical. The European Commission is telling everyone that whitefish stocks are perilously low, and have demanded quota cuts and reductions in time at sea, for British fishermen etc. etc…..until Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler is quoted as having said --- “Spain and Portugal have now been fully integrated into the CFP, all rules that could be considered as discriminatory have been abolished and from now on, EU measures will apply equally to all. The new regime legally brings to an end the discriminatory restrictions on access following the full integration of Spain and Portugal into the Common Fisheries Policy.”

Can we really expect our so called European Partners to whom we have given such valuable treaty guarantees to negotiate their cancellation, and thus surrender their assurance of unfettered access to some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. I think not. The stark reality which yawns before our fishermen is the fact that they have to be driven out of their own fishing grounds to let the rest of the member states fishermen predominate in British waters.

The only way to rescue the British fishing industry, and having it re-established as it once was, is through the restoration of National Control by a United Kingdom Act of Parliament, over those waters legally under our jurisdiction in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the sea 1982.

I am sending a copy of this letter to Struan Stevenson MEP. 

I have not the slightest doubt that FAL will be accredited a station of great honour, in the annals of history for telling British fishermen the truth.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Hay. Hon. Chairman FAL 

So far, there has been no reply and Tom's exposition of the Common Fisheries Policy as it really is has not been acknowledged, refuted or even discussed. 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The SNP changes tack

FAL has gone to some trouble to work out the SNP's timetable on the subject of the Common Fisheries Policy and, in the circumstances, this is information that needs to be widely known.

Let's have a look, shall we?

FAL Newsletter December 2003: 

SALMOND LAUNCHES BILL TO WITHDRAW FROM COMMON FISHERIES POLICY Banff & Buchan MP Alex Salmond has published a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons, which carries cross-party support, aimed at scrapping the Common Fisheries Policy. 

 Entitled the “Fisheries Jurisdiction Bill”, Mr Salmond’s Bill would have the effect of withdrawing the UK from the CFP and asserting national control over Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish waters. 

 “This Bill is one of only a handful in recent years which carries the support of MPs from every political group in the House of Commons – such is the upsurge in anger and frustration at the disastrous impact of the Common Fisheries Policy."

Or, in other words, in 2003, less than a decade ago, Alex Salmond was in favour of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the CFP. Whether that could be achieved or not while the country remains in the EU is, in this case, irrelevant. That was, apparently, his opinion.

On October 12, 2006 FAL held a fringe meeting at the SNP Conference in Perth.

At that time SeaFAR (Seafisheries Advisory and Reference Group) an industry government body, had just issued its Action plan for "A sustainable, profitable and well managed Scottish fishing industry within the EU".  

This was the title of the topic at the meeting with the added words - "Fact or Fiction?"

Richard Lochhead MSP, Shadow Minister for Environment, Rural Affairs, Energy and Fisheries had welcomed the plan but added that it would not work because the Labour-led government had not recognized the simple fact that Scotland's fishing grounds were controlled by the EU through the CFP.

At long last and seven years into our Scottish Parliament, the Labour-Lib Dem government has recognised the need for a strategy for one of our most vital industries. 

 However, the reality is that regardless of how many good measures it may contain, it ignores the elephant in the room, namely, the Common Fisheries Policy which will always undermine our efforts to take the industry forward to better times. Only when Scotland regains control of our own waters will we be able to plot a course into calmer waters for our fishing communities.

Clear enough and accurate enough.

In 2007 the SNP had this in its Manifesto:

A better future outside the CFP 

The SNP will continue to work for withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy and will not support any future European Constitution that grants the EU "exclusive competence" over this valuable resource. We will work with our partners to enlist support for the repatriation of fisheries responsibilities to member states. 

We favour national control over fisheries, which conserves stocks as well as the livelihoods of fishing communities. While we recognise that international cooperation is required in the management of fish stocks, conservation is not being achieved in the CFP. Our maritime neighbours Norway, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands all operate economically successful and environmentally sustainable fisheries outside the CFP. Scotland can emulate their success.

On July 31, 2008 Richard Lochhead reaffirmed during a meeting with FAL that the SNP and, therefore, the new Scottish government supported withdrawal from the CFP and restoration of national control over fisheries.

Well that was then. Since 2008 the notion of national control has been diluted somewhat.

On November 2, 2011 Richard Lochhead MSP. Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Scottish Government was giving evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. The Report on EU proposals for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy was later published.

Q. 236 from the Chair of the Committee:

You would not wish to repatriate fishing policy?

Mr Lochhead's response:

No, our policy is to work towards repatriation of fishing policy from Europe to member states, and then allow us to work on a regional basis with other member states, where appropriate.

The questioning followed on:

Don’t you agree that the Commission is, in all but name, travelling in that direction? Mr Lochhead's answer was reasonably clear though one must forgive him the politician's phraseology: I very much welcome the direction of travel if we are able to get on that road and drive along it. That is why we are waiting to find out if it is legally possible. There are a lot of unanswered questions. There will still be some decision making at Brussels level. There is how the regional body is going to work and how much decision making they will actually have. It is a question perhaps you can ask me once we have the new CFP in place but, at the moment, we have great concerns over the principle that Europe lays down our seas as a common resource. We believe that these decisions should be taken at member state level.

Since then Richard Lochhead who, we must assume, speaks for the SNP on the subject has been talking more about the Scots "being good Europeans" than any straightforward notion of repatriating the fishing policy even assuming he knows how he could go about it .

2012 Your Scotland Your Future

“With independence we will remain part of the EU.” Richard Lochhead

 With full participation, we will be enthusiastic and active Europeans though we will always make sure Scottish interests are fully and firmly represented. We will also be able to communicate our often distinctive circumstances and needs, particularly in areas such as fishing, at the top table. We will, for instance, argue for the replacement of the current Common Fisheries Policy.

One would think that this idea of communicating distinctive needs and circumstances "at the top table" has not been particularly useful to the UK government who, let us not forget, tend to use similar words. Why does Mr Lochhead think that miraculously it will work for a much smaller country that Scotland will be, should it acquire "independence within the EU", another impossibility.

On May 18, 2012 Richard Lochhead wrote in Fishing News about reforming the CFP. Had he read or listened to the numerous briefings FAL had submitted to him he would have realized that reform is not really possible while the basic concept of the CFP - integrated EU fisheries is in place.

Finally, here is a slightly hard to fathom comment from Richard Lochhead, made during a debate in the Scottish Parliament on June 7, 2012:

  The debate has been dominated by the issue of regionalisation and bringing more decision making closer to home to regional bodies—and, I would argue, member states. I was slightly disappointed by comments attacking the concept of nationalising the CFP and should point out that the European Commission, the European presidency and other member states have a degree of sympathy with the idea of passing powers back to member states, not just regional bodies.

 What we would really like is a clear indication of whether the SNP is still in favour of pulling out of the CFP. Then we would like to hear how they intend to achieve it.