Brussels tries to capsize post-Brexit fishing

The EU is abusing the Transition Period to stack the deck against British interests. Fishing is a perfect illustration, which also shows why we need to break free from the shackles of the EU as fast as we possibly can

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Brussels getting fishy over Bluefin Tuna
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Jayne Adye
On 25 June 2020 10:36

It’s almost as if fishing has become one of the most important do-or-die themes of the final Brexit negotiations in the Transition Period.

The United Kingdom - quite rightly - is refusing to give in to the European Union’s demand for continued shared access of our soon-to-be independent waters, causing quite a sea blockade. Foolishly, the EU is standing its ground too, but also preparing for the conclusion of No Deal on fishing rights, by putting a rope around the decks of the UK’s fishing industry - while it still can.

While in the Transition Period, the UK is still subject to freshly made EU legislation – despite the fact we ‘Left the EU’ back in January this year. Permitting this in the Withdrawal Agreement was clearly a misjudgement by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. It has become increasingly clear the UK will not be extending the Transition Period, however, but Brussels has been amassing a stockpile of regulations in the absence of a British presence in the European Parliament.

One of the more significant recent regulations is on the matter of fishing. More specifically, the EU has been busy tightening the rules on fishing for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. This extremely valuable fish is vastly popular all over the world and its demand is growing.

In 2016, the value of trade for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna for the EU was €191 million, with a yearly average increase of 4.45%. The EU currently uses the ‘Common Fisheries Policy’ to allocate fishing quotas to each individual Member State, allocating specific quotas of fish breeds they can catch.

The UK hasn’t ever been granted a quota to catch Atlantic Bluefin Tuna under the Common Fisheries Policy while being a Member of the EU, and even though we have now ‘Left the EU’, Brussels is still dictating our fishing quotas for this year. Since 2017, record numbers of Atlantic Bluefin Tunas have returned to the waters surrounding the British Isles, so many in fact, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has declared the species is no longer endangered, yet because of EU quota rules, any tuna caught by British trawlers must be thrown back into the sea – dead or alive.

Comprehensively being able to reclaim our fishing rights would see countries like Spain and France, the two Member States which receive the lion’s share of tuna quotas, suffer monumental losses. Spain is currently permitted a massive 64% of the EU’s tuna quota, totalling 277,000 tonnes, partly because of the high tuna population off the coast of Gibraltar, as under EU law, Gibraltarian fishing quotas are assigned to UK fleets, so they too cannot catch any tuna. However, under a No Deal Brexit, Gibraltar’s fishing zone will return as part of British territorial waters.

While Spain and France have been raiding the UK’s waters for years - making huge profits – the EU has chosen this month to publish their latest amendment to the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas – apt timing if you ask me.

The amendments make it clear Brussels intends to oversee “fisheries and conservation management” by striving to limit and restrict contemporary fishing methods to become more sustainable. This indicates Brussels wants to limit the overfishing caused by supertrawlers – which is good news - however, EU Member States are already exploiting this method for overtrawling in our waters.

The Convention also states their newly founded principles “are to be applied by the Union in the conduct of its external fisheries relations”, meaning future fisheries agreements - including the one with the UK - will be subject to these new rules on fishing. This cannot be right for our fishing industry.

After Brexit, the UK was expecting a wholesale reaping of the rewards of reclaiming its sovereign waters. However, this new EU regulation could seriously endanger the prospects of our soon-to-be liberated fisheries. Japan alone currently imports over €130 million of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna from EU fisheries every year.

This is a country the UK is working overtime to complete a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with. Just yesterday, it was announced Japan is pushing for the conclusion of a similar Free Trade Agreement to the one they currently hold with the EU – in just 6 weeks – one which eliminates tariffs on fisheries.

The UK is keen on this timetable, but Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss stated she intends to complete a more comprehensive agreement with Japan than is currently in place with the EU in the future, one which will permit more investment into both countries, unlike the EU’s deal.

UK trade negotiations are underway in every corner of the world, and with our exports to non-EU countries outgrowing those to the EU, our fishing industry needs to be released from the shackles of the Common Fisheries Policy and EU bureaucracy, to take full advantage of future trade with the wider world.

There are tens of millions of pounds – and the livelihoods of our fishermen – at stake regarding Atlantic Bluefin Tuna alone. This would be enough money to transform declining fishing communities, such as Grimsby, into thriving ports once again.

This is just one reason we must Get Britain Out of the Transition Period on time and revoke any sovereign-encumbering legislation Brussels’ has sneaked in during this year so far. Heaven knows what they have planned for the next six months.

Jayne Adye is the Director of the leading grassroots, cross-Party Eurosceptic campaign Get Britain Out

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