The Government has committed to scrapping the Fisheries Convention of 1964, allowing Britain to take back control of its territorial waters from the EU out to twelve miles. But a Fishing for Leave spokesman told Breitbart London fishermen are concerned that failure to commit to reclaiming the country’s full, 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) signals an impending betrayal.
Designed to pave the way for Britain’s absorption into the European Economic Community, as the European Union was then known, the London Convention gave foreign fishing boats the right to take fish from Britain’s territorial waters between six and 12 miles from the coastline.
Fishing for Leave, which organised the fishing industry’s grassroots campaign during the EU referendum and staged the (in)famous seaborne protest which turned into the campaign’s seminal Battle of the Thames, gave the much-delayed decision to leave the convention a cautious welcome.
The group described the move as a “first small step [towards] the golden opportunity of regaining all our 200 mile/midline Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and a £6.3bn industry which can be a beacon of success for Brexit” – but was at pains to point out that “the proposed fisheries bill only mentions [12 miles of] territorial waters, not the [200-mile] EEZ”.
Fishing for Leave previously expressed concern that Theresa May’s election manifesto for 2017 only committed to reclaiming waters over which Britain has “historically exercised sovereign control”. The right of nation-states to control fishing waters out to 200 miles (or the midway point between their coastline and neighbouring states’ coastlines) was established only after Britain entered the EEC/EU, and it has therefore never controlled the fisheries which it should be entitled to “historically”.
“After prevaricating on the London Convention, the Prime Minister must commit and clarify on her team’s dodgy manifesto wording that suggests the government will only repatriate this 12 miles rather than the full UK 200 mile EEZ,” a spokesman told Breitbart London.
— Fishing for Leave (@fishingforleave) June 20, 2017
Discussing the decision to exit the London Convention on the Andrew Marr Show, environment minister and Leave campaigner Michael Gove claimed “foreign fishing” within Britain’s 12-mile territorial waters would end following Brexit.
But he would only say that Britain would “decide the terms of access” to the remaining 188 miles – leaving open the possibility that much of the country’s fisheries will be bartered away during negotiations with Brussels.
The Ted Heath administration, which took Britain into the EEC in 1973 without a referendum, is widely regarded as having “sold the fishing industry down the river” as the price of entry ever since a Scottish Office memo from the time asserting that “in the wider UK context, [the fishermen] must be regarded as expendable” was revealed.
There is a broad consensus that the Common Fisheries Policy, which gives Brussels control over the fisheries of EU member-states as a so-called “common resource”, has proved to be “a biological, the environmental, economic and social disaster“, damaging not just the fishing industry but also depleting stocks and degrading the marine environment.
Even committed Remain campaigners such as former SNP leader Alex Salmond have described it as enormously damaging to “fishing communities, the economy and our maritime environment”, insisting that it is “imperative that we remove the dead hand of Brussels mismanagement as soon as possible” as long ago as 2004.