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Brexit vindicated as expert picks out four ways EU’s CFP crushed British fisheries


Fishing, championed by French President Emmanuel Macron, was one of the major bones of contention during the Brexit talks. Even before negotiations on the trade deal started, the French government made it clear to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier that he had to push for stronger commitments on regulatory alignments and access to UK fishing waters in return for maintaining free trade. Mr Macron said in March last year: “In no case shall our fishermen be sacrificed for Brexit.”

In the end, the two sides reached what they both described as a “mutual compromise”, which saw the UK Government settling for a five-and-a-half-year transition “during which access is fixed”.

The trade deal allows the EU to keep 75 percent of the value of the fish it now catches in UK waters, with 25 percent being returned to British fishermen over the transition period.

From 2026, Britain will be able to cut quotas or exclude boats in a zone of 6-12 nautical miles.

It is also believed UK boats will have access to an extra £145million of fishing quota every year by this period.

For many in the industry, this is a major victory as for too long, Britain allowed its waters to be degraded by industrial fishing.

In a report for the Brexit think tank ‘Red Cell’ titled ‘Putting The Fisheries Negotiations Into Context’ and published in March, the leader of Save Britain’s Fish John Ashworth brilliantly explained the four things the EU did that completely crushed UK fishing.

He wrote: “We cannot continue with a system that has failed for 40 years.

“What crushed British fishing is fourfold. The surrender; mismanagement; corporatisation and penetration of national resources in what many in the fishing industry believe was a slow series of contrived steps.

“The EU established ‘equal access’ to what became common EU waters/resources at the inception of the CFP in the knowledge that Britain, with rich fisheries, would join.”

The prominent Brexiteer noted: “This is what Ted Heath sold out too, despite being made well aware of the consequences – the famous response was British fishermen and coastal communities were ‘expendable’.

“Equal Access allowed the EU to claim after 10 years things were going a bit sideways with stocks.

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“A marauding EU fleet combined with technical advances Britain couldn’t curb with her own policy had denuded stocks.

“This led to the introduction of an EU system of quotas.

“Conveniently the EU fleets declared a huge track record of fish landed. This resulted in them on average having 75 percent of the quotas under a system of ‘Relative Stability Shares’ between member states, yet Britain provides 50 percent of the waters and 60 percent of the catches in EU waters of the North East Atlantic.”

Therefore, initially, Mr Ashworth wrote, due to this surrender and carve up, the EU made off with half the resources that should have been British had Britain been like Norway with independent fisheries.

Thereafter, to divide out the small quota share Britain did receive, the Government initiated a system called FQA units.

Mr Ashworth explained: “These FQA units entitle those who hold them to a particular proportion of the quota pie regardless of the annual tonnage that year.

“This corporatised a national resource as the Government allowed these FQA units to become tradeable.

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“As the quota system doesn’t work in a mixed fishery (and as our waters were over exploited by a herd of EU boats) we were subject to ever harsher quota cuts based on dodgy data the quotas generated.

“This paucity of data is caused because fishermen can’t land everything they catch – only those species they have quota for.

“Anything over quota is dumped dead into the sea. Fishermen have to therefore catch twice the fish to find what they can keep. Critically science is left with an erroneous picture of actual stock levels.

“This, combined with the initial loss of our resources when quotas were introduced, pushed a lot of smaller family concerns to the wall as the industry consolidated to last man standing – those with the bigger cheque books who could buy evermore FQA units that were needed just to maintain the parity of the same tonnage of fish to catch to pay loans.”

Mr Ashworth claimed this allowed EU operations – which were traditionally big – to set up in Britain and muscle out British family fishing struggling under EU rules.

Margaret Thatcher tried to stop these EU ‘Flagships’ but were overruled by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Factortame case.

Mr Ashworth asked: “Was all of the above a series of incidental coincidences or something deliberately planned to allow the transfer of all Britain’s resources into EU hands with only a few big compliant British operators who felt ‘we’re alright chuck’?”


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