It's Time To Unite Under One Vision For Post-Brexit Fishing

Mike Hookem MEP calls for the public to unite with the fishing industry to reclaim our seas from the EU.


UKIP Fisheries spokesman, Mike Hookem MEP, used his recent UKIP conference speech to call for “vision” in British Fishing that will allow the industry to flourish once the political future is secure.

Speaking to a packed Torquay conference hall, Mr Hookem told delegates that last year's Brexit vote was "nothing more than the starting gun, rather than the finishing line" in this country's battle to reclaim our fishing grounds. Mr Hookem then warned that the EU was "hell-bent on retaining the status quo" of the Common Fisheries Policy and was making threats should the UK Government not capitulate to their demands. 

However, Mr Hookem's speech was not all doom and gloom, with the Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire MEP say that we should "use a similar vision to that held by the Icelandic people on implementing their own 200-mile limit, stating, "the UK fishing industry must have a similar vision for the future post-Brexit."

Mr Hookem was used his speech to warn that the Conservative Government of Mrs May, was in his opinion, "poised to betray the fishing industry, just as the Conservatives of 1973 did"; saying Michael Gove backed this view up everytime he "declares that we will 'control access', instead of saying we will 'restrict access.'"

Wrapping up the speech that brought delegates to their feet; Mr Hookem told members that the fishing industry was worth "at least £6.3 billion pounds to the UK's GDP and that "we should fully exploit it to provide food, jobs and income for our island nation."

Full text of Mr Hookem's Speech: 

I am very proud to represent UKIP as its fisheries spokesman, not least because of my background.

Born and brought up in Hull, my family has links with the fishing industry that go back to the 1800’s.

My brother, Keith Hookem, paid the ultimate price as a crew member of the Fishing Vessel Ross Cleveland after the boat capsized and sank within a minute.

Growing up, everyone I knew in Hull’s Hessle Road community where I lived; worked in some capacity within the fishing industry.

Thousands of jobs depended on fishing, whether that be at sea, on shore, or in the retail area surrounding the docks.

These proud people worked hard to put food on the nation’s table.

However, today, as with many coastal communities up and down the country, Hull’s fishing industry has pretty much ceased to exist.

Much of this decline can be traced back to Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath’s 1973 betrayal of the fishing industry; when he negotiated away our fishing rights on entering the EEC.

The traditional parties will tell you this is untrue, and that the loss of our fishing industry was simply due to the Icelandic ‘Cod Wars’. 

Well, I lived through the Cod Wars, and I can tell you this was nothing more than the Icelandic Government realising the importance of their fishing grounds, their fish stocks, and their fishing fleets.

Recently, I visited Iceland to examine how their fishing industry has developed since reclaiming their 200-mile limit; and I would like to show you all a short film I made. 

 [Break for Film]

As you saw in the film, by reclaiming and effectively managing their 200-mile exclusive economic zone, Iceland has created a booming fishing industry that now exports around the globe. 

So, it comes as no surprise that British fishermen are demanding that the UK establish our own EEZ post-Brexit, as is our right under international law.

However, despite our vote to leave the EU, there is still a mountain to climb regarding reclaiming the UK’s fishing grounds.

The simple fact is, as far as fisheries are concerned, last year’s referendum was nothing more than the starting pistol, rather than the finishing line.

But while we may not want to adopt Iceland’s fishing system as a whole, there are many things we can learn from their model. 

Iceland achieved their present position by having a vision.

A vision that started in the 1950’s; of what their industry could be, rather than what it was.

A vision for an exclusive economic zone that was wholly owned and managed by the Icelandic Government, free of interference from foreign interests. 

A vision for a fisheries system aimed at benefiting the whole nation; that allowed them to fully exploit their natural resources, while at the same time keeping stocks sustainable.

And it is this vision for fishing, that we as a nation must rally around if we are ever to reclaim our seas, our fish, and our rights from an EU hell-bent on maintaining the status quo.

From speaking to members of fishing communities up and down the country, I know there are many outraged and determined people fighting to reclaim our maritime birthright.

However, they are opposed by a Government that, it seems to me, is on the verge of betraying our fishing industry, just like the Conservatives’ of 1973.

Recently, Michael Gove promised Danish fishermen, that their access to British waters would continue post-Brexit; in total juxtaposition to the restrictions on foreign vessels that many people would like to see. 

In fact, the recent Conservative manifesto revealed that they have no intention of implementing a 200-mile EEZ; instead only promising to reclaim “our traditional waters”, which means only securing our 12-mile limit.

This view is reinforced every time Gove declares that we will “control access”, instead of saying we will “restrict access.”

There is also a great deal of pressure coming from Brussels.

Both Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron recently told their fishermen that they would do everything they could to fight for EU fishing rights in British waters.

Adding to the pressure is the recently published European Parliament Fisheries Committee paper on Brexit.

This document states, and I quote, “The main objective is to guarantee a situation as close as possible to the status quo based on reciprocal rights and increased legal certainty for both parties.”

The same document goes on to say, “there is a need for a fisheries agreement that will enable the continuity of both parties’ fisheries activities at a level and under conditions similar to those currently in place.”

Also included are thinly veiled threats, that if we do not continue with the terms of the CFP, then the EU will limit the import of British fish products into the single market.

And under the terms of the CFP, EU fishing companies will have the right to continue registering vessels under the British flag and accessing British quota, using what are known in the industry as flag vessels. 

These vessels are foreign owned, operated, and crewed; and despite being registered in Britain, only have to land fish here once a year. While qualifying to use the little quota, the EU allows us;

While qualifying to use the little quota, the EU allows us; "flag" ships contribute next to nothing towards the UK economy and are in my opinion, nothing more than another drain on British fishing rights in our waters.

In 1988, the Government tried to update the Maritime Shipping Act to tackle this issue by demanding that fishing vessels be British owned; that they are directed and operated from the UK; and that any charterer, manager or operator had to be a qualified person or company.

However, the European courts ruled that this legislation was not ‘compatible’ with EU law and the long-running legal battle that followed – known as Factortame - helped to determine that EU law took supremacy over UK law.

The simple fact here is that as a newly independent country, free of the EU, we must make use of international law to establish that we will not be bullied by an EU upset that we decided to leave their club.

And it is only right and proper that fishing, as the first industry sold out to the EU; be one of the first benefactors of Brexit.

That is why as fisheries spokesman, I was very pleased to launch a full range of post-Brexit fisheries policies in the run-up to June’s general election

Not only did these policies champion the common requests from fishing communities to repeal the Common Fisheries Policy, and immediately restore sovereignty and control over the entire UK EEZ; they also looked towards the future of fishing, as Iceland did 50 years ago.

Of primary concern to UKIP is the potential for the CFP to be carried over as 'stand-alone' UK legislation under Mrs May's 'Great Repeal Bill'.

This, together with our demand that the fishing industry not be used as a bargaining chip in the EU exit negotiations are imperative to reclaiming our waters.

I am also today demanding that once EU law no longer applies to the UK; the Government acts to re-examine and strengthen the Merchant Shipping Act to close the loophole on EU companies exploiting British quota and the British flag through the use of flagships. 

Only once the political future of the industry is secure can we then choose what systems to operate in our fisheries.

And whether that system is effort-control, quota, or a mixture of the two, we must make sure that it allows our fishing industry to work in unison, stop the obscenity of discards, and benefit both the industry and the nation as a whole.

Fishing moving forward must be a collaboration between fishing communities, policymakers, and scientists to make sure we have not only the richest fishing grounds in the world but also the most sustainable for future generations.

However, to achieve any of this, the fishing industry and the British public must unite to make sure our waters are not once again sold out and bartered away.

We must speak with one voice to reclaim our rights and rebuild our capabilities as a proud fishing nation.

Only the UK Independence Party is fully committed to supporting our fishing communities and reclaiming our 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, that is our right under international law, together with rebuilding our fleets and connected industries.

If done right, the fishing industry has a possible net to plate value of £6.3 billion to the UK economy, and we should fully exploit it to provide food, jobs and income for our island nation.

Thank you!


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Article first uploaded 02 October - 2017
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