This cannot be said often enough: member states of the European Union are not sovereign. They cannot legislate for themselves in the overwhelming majority of fields and in at least one case, the VAT, can decide on rates only within boundaries set by the EU. Fishermen know this better than anyone else: whatever policies would be right for this country or for different parts of it they have to stay within the centrally decided (by 27, soon to be 28, member states) Common Fisheries Policy. Therefore, this posting (not about fisheries but about fiscal rules but that makes no difference) is seriously misleading. We cannot cede sovereignty - we have none to cede.
Though we missed the actual day of her passing (by less than an hour) the subject of Margaret Thatcher remains the one that preoccupies everyone's thoughts and discussions. Those of us who do not like the European Union and its policies and would like to see Britain out of it, making her own policies on all subjects including fisheries and creating treaties and agreements as needed, have an inevitably ambivalent attitude to the Iron Lady and her legacy.
She was, as we know, a member of Edward Heath's government, which negotiated Britain's entry into the Common Market. We have traced the events of 1970 here and here. Suffice it to say that a surrender of Britain's fishing grounds was part of the deal. It was not discussed widely and more or less denied in Parliament.
In the 1975 referendum called after some very superficial "renegotiations" Thatcher campaigned vigorously on the yes side. She also signed the Single European Act, apparently not realizing the effect it will have on Britain's economy.
But, let us also be fair. She did realize earlier than many of her colleagues where the whole project was leading as she made it clear in her famous Bruges speech. Whether she really would have called a halt to the process of integration and socialist regulation, whether she could even have managed to do so is irrelevant as soon after this her party got rid of her in a way that has steadily undermined them. It will be interesting to see whether with Thatcher's death that particular sore will finally be healed. Still she did not sign the Maastricht Treaty, which incorporated the Common Fisheries Policy, thus making it impossible to change, reform or, especially, destroy. That was Sir John Major's achievement though he seems to have forgotten it.
After her resignation Lady Thatcher concentrated on promoting the various ideas of anti-statism that are associated with her name, making a few cautious eurosceptic comments. She was more outspoken on the European issue in private but did not want to undermine her successors in the Conservative party. No doubt she recalled Edward Heath's "Great Sulk" and did not want to emulate it. A great pity, in many ways.
The passing of Margaret Thatcher does remind us of the paucity of political talent around us.
We have covered the ridiculous scare story of their being practically no grown cod in the North Sea here, here and here.
Now, thanks to EUReferendum, we can examine another side of the story. Well, not that particular story as this does not concern the CFP. It seems that in countries outside that noxious system the number and size of cod has been growing to the point that fishermen in Alaska are complaining about the drop in price. Well, yes, that is what happens when there is more produce.
However, the really interesting development is to be found in the Barents Sea. Last October the Barents Observer recorded that
The Barents Sea cod stock is growing and spreading northwards and eastwards. Never before have scientists found cod as far north as during this year’s ecosystem mission.
Norwegian and Russian scientists recently concluded this year’s joint ecosystem mission to the Barents Sea. The conclusion is that the cod stock in the Barents Sea has set a new record when it somes to northern distribution.
The Russian research vessel “Vilnjus” found cod as far north as 82 degrees 30 minutes north.
The cod stock in the Barents Sea is considered to be the largest in the world. The quotas for 2013 will probably be over 900.000 tons.
In March Fishupdate.com was reporting that the predictions were coming true.
Six Icelandic factory trawlers have been fishing in the Norwegian and Russian zones of the Barents Sea. One of them is HB Grandi’s Venus, and according to this trip‘s skipper Haraldur Árnason, there are a huge amounts of fish on the grounds, including on the Malaga shallows and the Fugløy bank in the Norwegian zone where the Icelandic vessels have mostly been fishing.
The skippers are complaining - not a good development. With more cod and bigger cod the price per tonne will fall. They might have to think of joining the EU after all. (Just kidding.) There are other ways of dealing with the problem and Norway is looking at them. One can look to improving quality or to spreading the season. (This article about a report released by the Norwegian research institute Nofima is well worth reading in full.)
As EUReferendum says very pertinently:
That Norway is even able to consider these options rests almost entirely on its refusal in 1994 to join the European Union (for the second time). As it stands, fisheries stocks in the Barents Sea are managed by the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission, established in 1975.
Had Norway become an EU member, it would have handed control of its fisheries to the Commission, to be treated as a "common resource". The EU would be negotiating directly with Russia, excluding Norway from the table.
And like Britain, it might have been looking at quotas in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands of tons it is currently catching, with their fleet a fraction of the size. It is a small wonder that the EU's CFP was one of the main reasons why Norway didn't want to join.
Would it be possible for our politicians, journalists and other would-be experts to understand that.?