UKIP fisheries spokesman, Mike Hookem MEP tentatively welcomed the Government’s decision to give notice to leave the London Fisheries Convention, calling the move “a historic first step in repatriating the British fishing industry to Westminster's control."
“Fishing as an industry bore the full brunt of Brussels interference in its activities from day one of our membership and deserves the opportunity to flourish post-Brexit,” continued Mr Hookem, who was born into Hull’s fishing community.
“Withdrawing from the London Convention, coupled with withdrawing in full from the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), has the potential to benefit the UK economy to the tune of £6.3billion each year; which will provide a welcome boost to many coastal towns, which have been struggling since the fishing industry’s decline.
“However, this does not mean for one second that the struggle to return British fish to British fishermen is over.
“The Conservative Manifesto only spoke about securing our “traditional waters”, which constituted the 12-mile limit before joining the EU; not the 200-mile EEZ that is now mandated by the United Nations. Not acting to make sure we can fully exploit our rights post-Brexit, would smack of yet another political betrayal of the UK fishing industry that will see most of Britain’s fisheries rights handed to the EU.”
“Therefore, the Government’s position on fisheries post-Brexit demands urgent clarification. I know from sitting in the PECH (fisheries) committee of the European Parliament that the EU is making plans to continue the terms of its CFP in British waters, post-Brexit.
“While Michael Gove may say withdrawing from the London Convention and the CFP ‘secures Britain’s control over fisheries’, the reality could be very different.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning, Gove twice refused to rule out EU vessels fishing in Britain’s waters and kept repeating, “we get to decide.”
“The big problem with the Government deciding who can and can’t fish in our waters is that the fishing industry could once again be used as a bargaining chip to secure other concessions in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. I also know from listening to what is said in the PECH committee that the pressure on the UK is building to ‘maintain the status quo’ and allow continued access for EU vessels on the same terms as the CFP.
“For decades the CFP has been a thorn in the side of the fishing community and has heralded a vast decline in both the industry and coastal communities. Therefore, it is great news that the Government has decided to withdraw the UK from the CFP and govern our fishing grounds under the UN’s UNCLOS conventions.”
“Forcing the UK’s withdrawal from the CFP is one more milestone in allowing our fishing industry to rebuild, but it could never have happened without vast amounts of support from the fishing communities of Britain. Together with groups like Save our Fish and Fishing for Leave; and of course, political pressure from UKIP, who have been the only political party campaigning on this issue for years, we have now seen a serious change in the direction of the UK’s fisheries policy.
“However, this announcement must not be taken for more than it is, as the UK’s withdrawal from the CFP in no way means the battle is won. Withdrawing from the CFP only means that the Government now has the right to barter away our fishing industry in exchange for other concessions in the Brexit negotiations, should they choose to do so.
“The fact is, while leaving the London Convention and the CFP is a great first step, it does nothing more than secure a 6-mile belt within the 200-mile limit we are entitled to under UN law (UNCLOS). The expected announcement that the UK is also leaving the CFP also means very little, as we have to do this as a part of Article 50, which states, “all treaties cease to apply.”
“Put simply, leaving the London Fisheries Convention without assurances that the UK will claim, enforce and exploit our full 200-mile EEZ for the UK’s benefit is no victory for the fishing community. It’s a Government attempt to use smoke and mirrors to placate British fishermen, while at the same time having the option of handing most our fishing rights to the EU.
“The fact is, there is a huge difference in been able to “decide who can access our waters” as Michael Gove proclaims, and securing our fishing rights for British fisherman, giving coastal communities the opportunity to earn a living again. The Fishing industry is potentially worth £6.3 billion to the UK economy, and not to grasp the opportunities that Brexit presents to exploit it for the national good is foolhardy in the extreme.