Something fishy in the Tory manifesto?

On Thursday I wrote about what the Conservative party manifesto has to say about Brexit. One area of policy I did not cover was the recovery of the UKs fishing rights in our territorial waters.

A number of commentators have interpreted the wording of the manifesto to imply that the UK will not be seeking to enforce its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as laid down in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, but will instead be reinstating only the older 12-mile limit.

This has resulted a twitter dispute between fellow UK pro-Brexit MEPS Nigel Farage (UKIP) and Daniel Hannan (Conservative):


What does the Conservative manifesto say?

When we leave the European Union and its Common Fisheries Policy, we will be fully responsible for the access and management of the waters where we have historically exercised sovereign control. A new Conservative government will work with the fishing industry and with our world-class marine scientists, as well as the devolved administrations, to introduce a new regime for commercial fishing that will preserve and increase fish stocks and help to ensure prosperity for a new generation of fishermen. To provide complete legal certainty to our neighbours and clarity during our negotiations with the European Union, we will withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention. [My emphasis]

To clarify some terms, the Common Fisheries Policy or CFP is the EU fisheries policy under which all member states share their fishing waters as a common resource.

The London Fisheries Convention is an earlier (1964) agreement which limited countries exclusive fishing zone to 6 miles.

This is what Fishing for Leave has to say here:

The manifesto states that the UK “will be fully responsible for the access and management of the waters where we have historically exercised sovereign control”.

The choice of the last 4 words are the key. They are ambiguous and a delusory play on words.

They don’t trip off the tongue and this peculiar yet deliberate choice of words are of dire concern and ring alarm bells for a total backslide and fudged deal.

Why hasn’t the natural wording of “all UK waters” or perhaps “all our EEZ” been used??

Why? Because the UK has never been able to exercise sovereign control over our EEZ in the waters between 12 and 200 miles from our shores! The UK has only ever been able to exercised sovereign control out to 12 miles before joining the EU!

Britain was already an EU member and bound by the CFP when international fishing limits were extended to 200 miles. …

Therefore, although the UK recognised her sovereignty over the EEZ, the UK has never been able to historically exercised control between 12 and 200 miles because it was automatically subverted by the EU!

According to Fishing for Leave, 80% by value of the UK catch is caught in UK waters, however 70% of the TAC (Total allowable Catch) in the UK EEZ is allocated to other member states. More detailed statistics are available from the NAFC Marine Centre in two reports [1] [2].

According to NAFC, about 1.1m tons of fish are landed each year from the UK EEZ, worth some £950m. Over the five year period from 2011 to 2015:

  • Less than half of the fish and shellfish landed from the UK EEZ by EU fishing boats (43% by weight) was caught by UK boats. ((= 57% by value – Gareth)).
  • If landings by non-EU (Faroese and Norwegian) fishing boats are included, UK boats’ share of the total landings from the UK EEZ falls to less than one-third of the total (32% by weight).
  • Non-UK European Union fishing boats landed about 700,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth almost £530 million, from the UK EEZ each year on average.
  • UK fishing boats landed 92,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth about £110 million, from other areas of the EU EEZ each year on average.
  • Non-UK EU fishing boats therefore landed almost eight times more fish and shellfish (by weight) from the UK EEZ than UK boats did from other areas of the EU EEZ, or almost five times more by value.
  • Two-thirds of the fish and shellfish landed from the North Sea by all EU fishing boats (67% by weight) were caught in the United Kingdom’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and half of them in the Scottish part of the UK EEZ

It certainly looks at though the UK has much to again, and little to lose by asserting control over its full 200-mile EEZ. However Government advisors are probably also pointing out that:

  • Sea fishing accounts for only 0.05% of UK GDP (one-twentieth of one percent). How much negotiating capital is it worth expending?
  • The EU external tariff on fish is 30%. Most of the fish we catch is sold in EU countries. The Government may be considering a trade-off between allowing the EU some continued access to the UK EEZ in return for continued free trade in fish.
  • Do we have the coastguard/ navy resources to patrol a 200-mile fishing zone?
  • A 12-mile zone would put us back where we were before we joined the EU.

While these arguments may sound sensible I believe it would be a miscalculation of the first order to bargain away the UKs fishing grounds now as we did in 1972. The UK is a maritime nation and despite the relative unimportance of fishing to our economy today, compared to say the car industry or the financial services sector, the decimation of our fishing industry at the hands of the EU has been a major cause of resentment.

This is particularly keenly felt in Scottish fishing towns like Aberdeen. By giving Scotland back its fishing grounds Theresa May will bolster support for Brexit north of the border, and put Nicola Sturgeon in the invidious position of trying to hand them straight back to Brussels again. If May wants to keep Scotland in the UK this is not the right issue to compromise on.

The UK should assert its full 200-mile EEZ, as do Iceland and Norway. But that does not mean we will all have to eat fish five times a week (though I wouldn’t mind). We should be prepared to sell portions of our quota on an ad-hoc year-by-year basis, perhaps by auction. On this matter we do not have to deal with the EU. As Frau Merkel has reminded us, we will be a “third country”. There is nothing to stop us doing bilateral deals with countries such as Denmark, whose fleet has traditionally fished on our side of the north sea midline (and vice versa). To work in this way will simplify the Brexit negotiations and avoid getting dragged in to a faux-CFP where fishing rights would be tied to financial services passporting and the rights of pensioners on the costa-del-sol.

May has said we are leaving the EU, not Europe. So the more our future relationships are conducted on a bilateral basis, and the less we have to do with the sclerotic and mendacious institutions of Brussels, the better.

Exclusive Economic Zones: UK (Red), EU (Blue), Other (Green)

Is May a Brexiteer? Part II

image purloined from

A month ago I attracted some controversy, and my largest ever number of reads, when I suggested that Theresa May, despite having supported Remain in the referendum, was genuinely intending to deliver a clean Brexit.

Some of my UKIP friends were skeptical. So I suggested a scientific test to decide the issue. I wrote:

We have two hypotheses:

A) May plans to use her General Election mandate to deliver a proper, clean Brexit as set out in her plan in January, or

B) She plans to use her increased majority to water it down and deliver something less.

If it is (A) then she will put her Brexit plan (or at least its main points) into the Tory manifesto. Then all Tory MPS will be signed up to it (except Ken Clarke, the rules don’t apply to him), and the House of Lords will not be able to challenge it. On the other hand it will be very hard for her to go back on anything in her manifesto (cf. the recent reversed budget announcement to increase National Insurance Contributions).

If it is (B) she won’t put anything so detailed in the manifesto in order to give herself flexibility to water the plan down during negotiations.

Today the Conservative Manifesto was published. What are the scores on the doors? (The following quotes are direct from the manifesto).

Leaving the EU

Following the historic referendum on 23rd June 2016, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.

Following the Brexit plan set out in January and since

In her Lancaster House Speech, the prime minister laid out the twelve principles she intends to follow in seeking a new deep and special partnership with the European Union. We have explained our approach in the White Paper on the United Kingdom’s Exit from, and a new relationship with, the European Union, during the passage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act, in the prime minister’s letter to the president of the European Council invoking Article 50, and in the Great Repeal Bill White Paper.

The wording “intends to follow” does leave some leeway for departing from the plan in the negotiations, so for firm commitments we must look further. But the January plan is not going to be ditched post-election.

Single market and customs union

As we leave the European Union, we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union but we will seek a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement.

“Divorce” bill

There may be specific European programmes in which we might want to participate and if so, it will be reasonable that we make a contribution … however … the days of Britain making vast annual contributions to the European Union will end.

No €100bn then.

Jurisdiction of EU Court

Repatriating EU law to the United Kingdom: We will enact a Great Repeal Bill. Our laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and interpreted by judges across the United Kingdom, not in Luxembourg.

That would mean the ECJ has no remit in the UK, including over the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Controlling Immigration

It is our objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades.

Same old promise that May failed to deliver on as Home Secretary. Will she be any more successful as PM?

Freedom of Movement

Leaving the European Union means, for the first time in decades, that we will be able to control immigration from the European Union too. We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs.

That leaves little room for a deal that anyone anyone could describe as freedom of movement. We will likely have a visa and work permits scheme close to those that now apply to non-EU visitors and workers.

I am calling it for hypothesis (A).


No Second EU Referendum


Today the Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto for the 2017 general election.

While paying lip service to respecting the will of the people:

We acknowledge the result of the 2016 referendum, which gave the government a mandate to start negotiations to leave – but we believe the final decision should be made by the British people, not by politicians.

it is abundantly clear this is an attempt to reverse the referendum decision of 23 June last year. The heading of the Europe section of the manifesto Protect Britain’s place in Europe rather gives the game away.

Lim Dem policy is not just to hold a referendum on whether to accept the negotiated deal, where under the terms of Article 50 a no vote would mean leaving without a deal, they want a third option on the ballot paper: staying in the EU.

That’s why, when the terms of our future relationship with the EU have been negotiated (over the next two years on the Government’s timetable), we will put that deal to a vote of the British people in a referendum, with the alternative option of staying in the EU on the ballot paper.

Let’s be clear why this is such a bad idea. If there is the prospect of another referendum overturning the 2016 result then that gives everyone who wants the decision reversed a powerful incentive to make the deal offered in 2018 as poor as possible. That means not only the EU institutions (who are panicking not only about the precedent set by Brexit, but also by the huge hole that will be left in the EU budget), the Governments of the remaining 27 (who will either receive less or have to pay more), but also every remoaner in the UK including (one suspects) some senior civil servants and other establishment figures who need to be working to make Brexit a success. Remember, the Article 50 talks can’t be used to offer the UK a better deal to remain (even if such a thing were contemplated by either side, David Cameron tried that in 2015/16 and was sent home with nothing).

Under the circumstances of the EU offering the worst possible deal it is inevitable the talks will collapse.

One suspects that the EU institutions understood this perfectly well when Article 50 was drafted. A two-stage process of the kind the Lib Dems propose may look plausible at first sight but it is predestined to offer a choice between no exit at all and the hardest ‘cliff-edge’ exit with nothing agreed between the parties. That would be good for neither the EU nor any exiting country. That is one reason why Article 50 specifies a single point of decision.

Theresa May has said she wants the general election to unite the country and allow her to get the best possible deal. It is clear the Lib Dem strategy is to divide the country and wreck any possible deal in the hope of reversing the referendum result. The British people will have no truck with this.