The EU’s betrayal of Britain’s fishing industry

The EU's fisheries policies have been a disaster for Britain, destroying communities along our coasts. We should emulate Greenland, get out of the EU as soon as possible, and revive one of our greatest industries

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Fishing boats at the Coble Landing, Filey
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Chris Muspratt
On 2 October 2015 08:05

One of the most damaging implications of Britain joining the EU has been the effect on our fishing industry. The Common Fishing Policy (CFP) is the EU’s method of implementing pan-European laws on fishing and aquaculture.

As with most policies emanating from the centralised elite in Brussels, the CFP was a major disaster.

After its introduction in 1970, the CFP has been synonymous with the huge decline of our fish stocks, deterioration of the environment, wasteful discarding of fish, and the destruction of Britain’s fishing industry and communities.

Geographically well placed, British and Irish waters actually account for 60 percent of the EU’s waters. To add salt to the wound, it is an embarrassing reminder the CFP did not exist until Britain joined the EU.

The sacrifice made essentially placed Britain’s precious waters under a shared resource to other EU nations. Ever since, stocks have depleted and many coastal towns have gone into economic and social decline through the loss of thousands of jobs.

As certain nations receive a better deal out of the EU, it is clear the industries of national importance to other member states have never been under threat or willingly reduced by their own politicians.

From French wineries to the German automotive industry, it is clear other member states do all they can to protect important sections of their own economy and heritage, while British politicians willingly give away one of our own.

As the United Nations Law of the Sea states: “The exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines”. Yet Britain’s fishing rights have now been reduced by the EU to a mere 12 miles.

This policy has become so nonsensical, it’s hard to shift the blame away from Britain’s leaders during the 1970’s, who saw the EU’s bloc mentality as the answer to our post-war decline.

Looking to the future, it appears the pro-EU lobby are clearly still under the Brussels' spell. When politicians like Conservative MP Laura Sandys highlight how British fisherman will lose their EU subsidies after Brexit, it is often forgotten the CFP created the problem in the first place.

In addition, mild reforms of the policy have been too little too late for our fishermen. Billions of fish have been discarded and thrown back into the sea because of the inefficient division of quotas. It is worth noting that fish landings into UK ports were higher in the 19th century than they are today.

However, there is another nation in which the CFP played a similar, damaging role. Greenland decided to leave the EU (EEC in 1984). Their politicians recognised the wanton vandalism coming their way, and understood how other Member States did not follow the same procedures of handling their fish catches.

In the Seventies, Britain and Greenland held around 80 percent of fish stocks. In comparison, nations such as France, Spain and Italy had destroyed stocks in the Mediterranean.

With such a small population so reliant on one industry, Greenland saw no other option but to leave the EU. How is the nation doing now? Having ignored the scaremongers at the time, the islanders have found their average income on par with other rich Northern European states, and they have benefited from the lack of EU red tape.

In addition, Greenland successfully negotiated favourable terms for their exit, and now enjoy favourable trade deals with the EU. If a nation of 57,000 can do it, why do we often hear that Britain, a nation of 65 million, cannot do the same?

The EU is chronically over-centralised, and such ‘one size fits all’ policies will never be in the interest of Britain. Taking back control would not only repair depleted fish stocks around the British Isles, but provide a secure future for the industry.

Nations like Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroes have avoided this mess. This is why our politicians must learn from example and Get Britain Out of the EU.

Chris Muspratt is a researcher for the cross-party grassroots Eurosceptic campaign group Get Britain Out

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