The Fishermen’s organisation Fishing for Leave strongly welcomed Mr Michael Gove and Ms Ruth Davidson’s words but say that more clarity is needed and that the government needs to stop playing semantic games.

This intervention comes just days after it seemed that senior government figures would fail to rebuff the EU’s demand that a condition of a Free Trade Agreement would be a continuation of,“existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources”.

Mr Gove and Mrs Davidson stated their commitment that:

“As we leave the EU, we want the UK to become an independent coastal state, negotiating access annually with our neighbours….. the Prime Minister has been clear: Britain will leave the CFP as of March 2019”.

Fishing for Leave welcomes the fact that both have lent their support to this but say where this turns south and these statements can ring hollow is that they are impossible to fulfill if fishing is trapped in a transition. A lot more clarity is needed on this.

But the question remains as to how this will work if a transition period is in place. They have said that “during the implementation period we will ensure that British fishermen’s interests are properly safeguarded.” Alan Hastings of FFL doubts this is a real offer of protection. He said:

“It’s stating the obvious that the UK will officially “leave” the CFP on March 2019 as our membership ceases under Article 50. However, the transition means re-obeying all EU law after we leave meaning Brexit In Name Only (BRINO).

During a transition, the EU can enforce any detrimental legislation to cull the UK fleet which makes the pledge to safeguard British fishermen and a bright future academic and hollow.

There have been well-publicised representations to the government and MPs that being trapped in a transition will see a large proportion of the UK fleet culled under forthcoming inept EU policy that is already agreed.

This would allow the EU to use international law (Article62.2 of UNCLOS) to claim the “surplus” resources the UK would no longer have the fleet capacity to catch.

So why does the government stop playing semantics and clearly state in unequivocal terms not that we ‘leave the CFP’ but that there will be no continuation of it in any way shape or form post 2019? Until that assurance is forthcoming everything else is a PR exercise playing on words that folk are getting sick fed up with regards Brexit”.

Again, FFL welcome Gove and Davidson making the effort and spelling out Britain must receive a fairer portion of her zonal waters an fishing protection, but the reality is that under international law, this should be rightfully ours anyway!

Alan continued:

“We hope and look forward to Mr Gove and Defra publicising that a “fair share” is no less than the 750,000 tons of fish the EU catches in British waters every year that are rightfully ours in exchange for the 90,000 tons we catch in theirs.

Anything less than fulfilling the government’s commitment to work under international law and therefore this international premise of zonal attachment would see a token gesture towards fairer shares.

It is vital that the opportunity of repatriating the 60% of the fish the EU catches in British waters, which could double the British fishing industry’s worth to £6-8bn every year, is achieved.”

Despite the “positive sounds” from some members of the government, Prime Minister Theresa May has yet to clarify her statements that seem to indicate that she is more than willing to capitulate. She said:

“As part of a new economic partnership, we want to continue to work with the EU to manage shared stocks in a sustainable way and to agree reciprocal access to waters.”

This statement and Hammonds comments openly suggests that fishing will be tied and sacrificed as negotiating capital for a new economic partnership.

It’s time for the government to come out fighting to unequivocally succeed on this “acid test” by clearly saying there will be no continuation or any ties to the CFP after March 2019 and that we really will take back control.

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