It’s not just the backstop: Fishing should not be in the Withdrawal Agreement

It’s not just the backstop: Fishing should not be in the Withdrawal Agreement

by Aaron Brown
article from Friday 15, February, 2019

THE ABHORRENCE over the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement misses the point that much of what’s left of Britain’s fishing industry won’t survive the proposed “transition” or “implementation” period it is designed to establish. Fishing just shouldn’t be there. Period.

Under the new internationally binding Withdrawal Agreement that will become an international treaty the UK will re-obey all EU law for a Transition period of 21 months or upto 4 years post-Brexit under Articles 4, 7 and 132.

That means effectively re-joining  the EU’s disastrous Common Fisheries Policy – but on a on membership minus basis. Yes, that’s right, it’s an even worse basis than now.

Re-obeying all EU law for the transition period – but with no say or veto under Article 7 and 130 – means Britain will be a gagged EU satellite. The UK will be bound under Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement’s terms of ‘good faith’ to enforce whatever laws Brussels decrees.

This will allow the EU to enforce any detrimental legislation to cripple and cull what’s left of the British industry.  Think not? Well, the EU has every incentive to do so. Under international law (UNCLOS Article 62.2) if a coastal state does not have the capacity to harvest all its resources (in other words catch and land the fish in its waters) then it shall give the ‘surplus’ (what it cannot catch) to its neighbours.

This is not conjecture, EU documents recognise this situation. Article 130 says current percentage based ‘Relative Stability Shares’ shall be maintained, but the EU can slash quota tonnages for species the UK is dependent on. The UK may still have a 100 per cent, but 100 percent of zero tons – equals zero.

The EU can also abolish the CFP 12 mile limit that protects inshore fishermen and can use what should be UK resources as negotiating capital in international deals. 

The most severe existential threat is the EU can fully enforce its ill-conceived discard ban.

This ban deals with the discard symptom not the discard cause – that strict quota limits do not work in highly mixed fisheries such as those around the British Isles.

Under the ban when a vessel exhausts its lowest quota it must stop fishing. Government agency SeaFish has modelled that 60 per cent of UK resources will go uncaught (because vessels would have to tie up for the year on using their lowest quota) and a similar proportion of the fleet bankrupt.

The Withdrawal Agreement,under Article 184 and Protocol Article 2, obliges the EU and UK to work during the Transition to legally agree the draft terms of the Future Relationship by 2020. A Future Relationship based on current dire access and quota arrangements for fisheries, agreed as part of the wider economic partnership. The Withdrawal Agreement sets the UK up to be levered into CFP associate membership. 

A Future Relationship which must ensure no ‘hard’ border on Ireland – a deliberately impossible bar to clear as the definition of a country are its border. 

This border has been deliberately weaponised as a stick to beat the UK into Brexit in Name Only – despite Northern Irish-republic of Ireland trade representing 0.2 per cent of EU GDP and only 6.2 per cent of Ulster’s trade. The tip of the tail is being used to wag the dog.

With Fisheries the government is trying to hide behind the repeated phrase “the UK will be an independent state”. We are being played. We may officially be “independent”, but will be an independent state that’s chosen to be shackled to the EU for up to four years in the Transition and thereafter pushed into CFP associate membership. 

The best that the UK’s fisheries can expect is the Withdrawal Agreement fails to be concluded and we leave the EU with a clean Brexit and then, and only then, can we negotiate from a position of strength to keep our fisheries from becoming another bargaining counter to be given away for Gibraltar, financial services or anything else that we should not be sacrificing so cravenly.

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