The NFFO writes to the PM on the Government’s portrayal of the UK/EU Trade & Cooperation Agreement as a success on fisheries
The NFFO has written in strong terms to the Prime Minister about the Government’s portrayal of the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement as a success on fisheries.
Dear Prime Minister
Fishing Rights and the EU
In our hearts, many of us in the fishing industry feared that when the fate of hundreds of thousands of diverse businesses and livelihoods across the UK hung in the balance with fishing rights, you would be obliged to sacrifice the fishing industry. Everything, however, that you, and others at the very top of government told us, and also told Parliament the general public, led us to believe that your stance on fishing was not just rhetoric or expedience, but was based around a principle – that a sovereign country should be able to control who fishes in its own waters and should be able to harvest the fish resources in its own waters primarily for its own people. That proved not to be the case.
It is not that, in the end, you were forced to concede in the face of an intransigent and powerful opponent that has caused such fury across our industry, it is that you have tried to present the Christmas eve Agreement as a major success when it is patently clear that it is not. A quick comparison of what we face from 1st January with the EU’s fisheries relationship with Norway, spells out the scale of our defeat. Quota shares do not reflect anything like the resources within our EEZ, and access will not be through annual negotiation but will continue to be an automatic right for the EU fleets, even to within 6 miles of our coastline.
Your public statements have focussed on when the 5 and a-half-years adjustment period expires. One does not have to be too much of a cynic to consider that we have entered a form of Groundhog Day, when the EU will keep us tied into a CFP-type arrangement on quota shares and access by repeatedly exerting its ability to bring greater economic power to bear on the UK, who after protests will again and again capitulate. Depressingly, we will remain tied into a neo-colonial relationship with the EU on fish, despite our rights under international law, for long into the future.
This was our moment in the political sun – a small but symbolically significant industry had an opportunity to break free of an asymmetric and fundamentally exploitative relationship with the EU. We failed in this agreement to break out of that grip, and it would be much better if you, with humility and honesty, conceded that you tried but failed – rather than implying that you had handed us the keys of our liberation, when you have not.
Nothing in this letter will change the facts on the ground. But I thought that it was important that you receive directly the fishing industry’s feelings at this missed opportunity at a crucial historical juncture.
Andrew Pascoe. Andrew Locker
NFFO President NFFO Chairman
NFFO Chief Executive