History will judge Brexit on how the fisheries issue is settled

History will judge Brexit on how the fisheries issue is settled
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The United Kingdom has, as a sovereign country, an absolute and undisputed right to a 200 miles EEZ, or the median line, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

No traditional fishing rights, real or purported, of other countries can override that. Otherwise no country would obviously ever risk allowing fishing vessels from other countries to fish in its waters for example through agreements on shared stocks. Britain therefore does not have to allow foreign fishing vessels into its waters although UNCLOS does instruct coastal states to seek to agree upon the measures necessary to ensure the conservation and development of shared stocks. That is, however, entirely a subject to whether the coastal states in question manage to find common ground.

The way the British fishing industry was sacrificed back in 1973 cast a dark shadow on the country’s membership of the EU.

Consequently, the EU and its member states have absolutely no legal ground for their demands to continue fishing in British waters as before. What is more, they are naturally very well aware of that which is why for example the Danish government doesn’t seems to be making the absurd suggestion any longer that fishermen from Denmark have a historical right to fish in the waters around Britain. The British people’s case is very strong as I argue in my 2017 paper “Fishing for Freedom: Lessons for Britain from Iceland’s fisheries experience.” They both have strong conservation arguments on their side due to the failures of the CFP but also the sovereign right to a 200 miles EEZ guaranteed by international law.

The British Government should keep negotiations with the EU on trade and fishing separated as it seems determined to do. It is vital for Britain to enjoy full freedom to negotiate with its neighbours, such as Iceland and Norway, on shared fish stocks instead of having its options limited as a consequence of a trade agreement with the EU. What is also vital is to make certain that nothing is negotiated unless it is equally beneficial for British fishermen. After all, fishing vessels from EU member states have for decades landed most of the fish caught in the waters around Britain. 

According to a study by the University of the Highlands and Islands’ NAFC Marine Centre (January 2017) only 32% by weight of the fish and shellfish caught in British waters between 2011 and 2015 was caught by British boats.

Furthermore, the study found that fishing vessels from other EU member states landed around 700,000 tons of fish and shellfish worth almost 530 million pounds from British waters on average each year during that same period. At the same time British boats landed only 92,000 tons of fish, worth 110 million pounds, on average from the waters of other EU countries. Which means boats from other EU member states landed almost eight times more fish and shellfish from British waters than British boats landed from other parts of the EU exclusive economic zone or of almost five times more value.

The message from Prime Minister Johnson to the EU has not only been that trading access to the waters around Britain for a trade agreement is out of the question but also that insufficient progress in the trade talks might lead to his government being ready to walk away from the table and start preparing to exit the current transition period without an agreement. This is a real possibility and for obvious reasons it must remain so until and if a favourable and an acceptable agreement has been signed.

The only acceptable conclusion for a sovereign country is to have full authority over its waters and to conclude bilateral mutually beneficial agreements regarding shared fish stocks, as UNCLOS instructs coastal states to attempt. Therefore, the only scenario where Britain might not get those results is where the British government would make a political decision that the interests of the British fishing industry were again expendable.

The way the British fishing industry was sacrificed back in 1973 cast a dark shadow on the country’s membership of the EU and was one of the main reasons the British people voted to leave in the 2016 referendum. How the fisheries issue will be addressed in the ongoing trade negotiations with Brussels will, without much doubt, be at the forefront when history reviews how successful leaving the EU really was.

This is an excerpt from the Red Cell paper, Net Worth

The post History will judge Brexit on how the fisheries issue is settled appeared first on Global Vision UK.

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