HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
The EU Common Fisheries Policy is not so much one size fits all, as one size fits no one. So, unsurprisingly, the plea of fishermen across our Kingdom is loud and clear; end this nonsense, and regain a policy that fits our fishermen.
The transition deal to leave the European Union is certainly a step towards a better future. It assumes, however, that fishermen must wait for the change they desperately need. Surely, remaining in the Common Fisheries Policy, as a rule-taker, with no say on expected legislation until 2021, is less than we deserve – indeed, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State responsible for fishing, described it as ‘sub-optimal’.
Given this, through the transition period, it is necessary to revitalise our own fishing industry, to repair the damage wrought by the European Union.
The wilful disregard of fishing communities by those, who signed away the rights to our waters in Common Fisheries Policy, is neither forgotten nor forgiven. Where once British trawler-men ruled our seas, now they are trumped not by competitors with greater skill, but by punitive EU law.
According to the barmy rules imposed on us, we are limited to just 40 per cent of the total catch in our own waters. This is not only an unfair deal, it is unsuitable in every respect – it stops British fishermen, who know our waters and our fish stock best, from regulating themselves and providing the benefit of our natural resources to us all.
The control of our waters is emblematic of an independent Britain, free from interfering unelected Euro-bureaucrats, and free to take control as we see fit.
We must be sure that we finally cast aside the abysmal ‘Heath option’ that has failed our fishing industry for over 40 years. We should rebuild our fishing capability by investing in the industry and the communities it serves. Fishermen want to play their part in feeding our nation and their voice must be heard. The fear, expertly highlighted by Fishing for Leave, is that we will remain a permanent member of the Common Fisheries Policy through the blunders of faceless officials. To avoid this, we should ensure we agree a new deal with the EU over our territorial waters or, failing that, simply reassert our control as of right. This is plainly an issue of sovereignty. We voted to take back control, and that includes control of the waters which surround our islands.
It is often said that Britons are a maritime people; and our seafaring future be as great as our history on the waves. In the future, let us assert with confidence that, as a result of Brexit – in the words of Sir Francis Drake; ‘life at sea is better’.