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A FISHY TALE

1. It was always thus. Those who disregarded our fishing industry did so out of ignorance of its importance, for it goes to the very heart of our island heritage & maritime history.
2. I've been anxious about the new Fisheries Bill which hasn't made the progress I'd hoped for. It was stuck at the report stage in the Lords for ages & is currently due for its second reading in the Commons on 1st September.
3. I have a feeling the Bill's sluggish progress was intentional - the delay allowed for flexibility in the Brexit, fishing opportunities negotiations. And that made me nervous.
4. I've no reason to be emotionally attached to fishing, other than it's something deep rooted in my 'island mentality'. It's romantic, it's rugged, it's Poldark on steroids & so much part of what we are as a nation.
5. Those who don't feel the attachment to fishing & coastal communities, dismiss the fishing industry in purely economic terms. 'It's only worth 0.1% of the economy' they say. Maybe so, but narrow it down to regional economies & it's worth a lot more to those regions.
6. There's also the omission in the current economic argument as to what the industry might be worth if our fisherman had a bigger slice of fishing in our waters. I suspect with allied industries factored into the equation the industry % figure is much higher.
7. The thing is, 'they' (Parliament) know this. They've known it for years. The EU knows it too. It is the most contentious subject in the Brexit negotiations & something we must get boss-side of this time around. For it goes to the very heart of what makes us a sovereign nation.
8. The Thatcher Government were embroiled in over a decade of contentious litigation to try & protect our fishing industry. We introduced a new Merchant Shipping Act in 1988 to try & stop quota-hopping - where nationals from other Member States registered boats in Britain.
9. A Spanish Fishing consortium comprising 53 Spanish vessels & 42 existing British vessels made up the 'Armada' of fishing trawlers registered/re-registered in Britain to gain quotas of fishing opportunities allocated to Britain under the EU's Common Fisheries Policy.
10. The Merchant Shipping Act was an attempt to prevent the quota-hopping & the ensuing litigation amounted to 8 High Court, 3 Court of Appeal, 3 House of Lords & 4 European Court of Justice cases. And it culminated in Britain having its piscatorial arse handed to it on a plate.
11. It also confirmed the supremacy of EU law over domestic legislation. When European & national laws conflict, EU law prevails.

Lord Denning commented on the litigation:
12. 'No longer is European law an incoming tide flowing up the estuaries of England. It is now a tidal wave bringing down our sea walls & flowing inland over our fields & houses - to the dismay of all.

Lord Denning got it.
13. No doubt about it, the litigation was a triumph for Europhiles, but it sowed a seed of bitterness that has never gone away.

And now day of reckoning beckons once again.
14. You see fishing opportunities is so much more than fish - it is power. Power over our 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Here are some figures I've taken from the British Sea Fishing website:
15. The Common Fisheries Policy within our waters accounts for 683,000 tonnes of fish landed by EU vessels. British vessels land a mere 111,000 tonnes.
16. France's allocation of:
Dover Sole is around 3 x that of ours,
Cod is 4 x
Haddock is 5 x
17. In Denmark 40% of their fishing industry is reliant on access to fishing opportunities within our EEZ. It amounts to €4 billion worth of export trade for the Danish fishing industry which employs around 17,000 people.
18. Little wonder Monsier Barnier was keen to place fishing opportunities at the top of the agenda. The EU were hoping to barter UK single market access for goods in exchange for similar quotas currently allocated under the Common Fisheries Policy.
19. For what it's worth, I think we have bigger fish to fry.

The present state of flux the world is in may lead to food shortages & supply chain disruption. Having spent 4 years in bitter, divisive Brexit shenanigans, the last thing we should do is cave on fishing.
20. Threats of EU vessels ignoring our EEZ should be taken with a pinch of sea salt. If Iceland can manage to fight a cod war with its limited military, I'm sure we'll cope. The United Nations Convention on Law of the Seas is on our side, but that tale is for another day.
Here's a map of our Exclusive Economic Zone marked bright blue.
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