Flagship registration must be controlled if British fishing communities are to benefit from Brexit

Flagship registration must be controlled if British fishing communities are to benefit from Brexit

by Aaron Brown
article from Thursday 21, February, 2019

AWAY FROM all the distraction of what a number of anti-Brexit MPs are doing there has been some good news that the media has failed to cover. The government has fulfilled a ministerial pledge that the abhorrent Electric Pulse Fishing method will be banned in all British waters post-Brexit.

The government has moved a Statutory Instrument to amend EU laws adopted by the EU Withdrawal Act. In this instance the government will remove the EU derogation that provided for a fleet of 100 Dutch vessels to use Electric Pulse Fishing in direct conflict of the EU’s core law.

This shows what can be done to better husband our fishing, our waters and our marine environment by taking back control. Huge thanks must go to East Anglia MP Peter Lowestoft for pursuing the minister, George Eustice, who should also be credited for listening to good sense.

The outlawing of electric pulse fishing will be a huge saviour for the marine environment our fishermen depend upon do their industry and heritage can continue for generations to come. It will see a huge amount of foreign fishing pressure removed from British waters allowing local fishermen and communities to thrive again.

The challenges are not over, however. Fishing for Leave hopes restrictions on flagship registration will ensure there will be no incentive or ability for EU owners to re-register their boats in Britain post-Brexit that makes all the gains worthless.

There is a real need for the government to front up with courage and clamp down on Flagships post-Brexit by tightening the conditions of 'Economic Links' that define what constitutes a British fishing vessel.

When, on leaving the EU, the UK automatically repatriates the 60 per cent of our resources caught by EU boats – as provided for in international law – it is important that the ability of EU companies to re-register as British Flagships is stopped. If this is not done EU owners will simply jump the jurisdiction fence to buy up what Britain just repatriated. This would squash the opportunity to rejuvenate UK coastal communities with the repatriated resources allocated to all fishermen (outwith the current monopolized FQA system) which would provide incentive and ability to attract a next generation to a good career in fishing at sea.

The minister has shown he recognises the potential Flagship loophole and now must move to close it down in the Fisheries Bill with a strong Economic Link Clause. To do this the Conservative government must reinstate Mrs Thatcher’s 1988 Merchant Shipping Act which looked to stop EU Flagships, but, was overturned by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as being discriminatory against EU citizens’ right of establishment in the infamous Factortame case.

Fishing for Leave is adamant that one of the fundamentals that has been missed, and must be added to the Fisheries Bill is reinstatement of the 1988 Act to stipulate an Economic Link where British boats must be;

– 60 per cent of beneficial ownership of a fishing vessel/company is held by British citizens.
– 60 per cent of a vessels crew must be British. With a 5-year derogation to allow vessels to use skilled foreign crew until a lost generation of British fishermen is replaced with the next.
– 60 per cent of catches, landed, sold AND processed in Britain to ensure that British ports, processors and the wider community derives maximum economic benefit from our nations resources.

Such provisions are no different to Norway and other Nordic nations and so the government should be encouraged to move such an amendment immediately, as failure to do so will allow economic exploitation of British fisheries despite Brexit. Something that the British public, who see restoration of our fishing as totemic, would be annoyed and upset about.

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