Trawling for a new fishing policy

It is good news that at last, after years of criticism by many of us, even the EU has decided its Common Fishery Policy is wrong. Fishermen have got angry, despaired, lost their livelihoods over the years of mind boggling incompetence and aggressive obstinacy. We have been told for too long that throwing back dead fish into the sea is the way to “conserve” fish stocks!

As one of the proponents of getting fishing back under UK domestic control, I would like the British government to pursue that option,. If the masters in Brussels now know they cannot carry on with their damaging policy, isn’t it time to allow member states to have a go? They tell us they believe in subsidiarity, they believe in devolving power. What better test of their good intents than to tell them to give us back our fish?

Our once great fishing industry has been badly damaged by the CFP. In the case of some ports and some species and fishing grounds it has been all but destroyed. Elsewhere in the world more enlightened policies followed by national governments have enabled fishing grounds to recover or to be maintained. It is high time we did this in Britain.

What is the government’s line on this? Doubtless they will once again fail to speak up for Britain, preferring to await some new compromise which will fail to restore our fishery to its former glory.

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32 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    I hope you are right John, that commonsense prevails and that the UK can get back some control over its own waters, but history suggests that the old rules will be superceeded by even more complicated ones in the future.

    Remember we now have more Countries in the EU than before, and the landlocked ones will want some say in how fish is caught and by who, and we are dumb enough to listen.

    Personally I think we should have a 200 mile exclusion limit on all EU regulation.

  2. oldrightie
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    It was fishermen and their generations of knowledge that preserved stocks and kept us fed. These stocks were pillaged by EU regulations and that knowledge ignored. The EU is a nightmare of bureaucracy and inept legislation. I am beginning to believe it’s time for it to go!

  3. Sir Graphus
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I read that Iceland would now like to join the EU. I watch with interest to see the deal they manage to negotiate for their carefully defended and conserved fish stocks.

  4. Colin D.
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Cameron has got to seize the opportunity, and quick. Heath gave away our fishing industry but Cameron can make amends. Experience shows the only people motivated to fish sensibly, with care for the future, are local fisherman. We cannot continue to have sensible people instructed by officialdom to follow idiotic policies. We cannot continue to have foreign fisherman plundering our waters. We must have sovereignty returned for our waters and revert to the rights that prevailed prior to Common Market entry. The madness of the CFP is testament to the folly of EU central planning and we have all been made losers as a result of it.

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    How many other policies has the EU got wrong? Don’t bother trying to answer that, there isn’t enough space on the page. We were lied to by Heath when he took this country into what was then called the Common Market. Why are we still in this anti-democratic organisation?

  6. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I thought that somebody in the Tory party (Struan Stevenson?) came up with a plan to repatriate control of our fisheries, which was accepted by Michael Howard, but then ditched by David Cameron?

    It’s no good waiting for the EU to “allow” us to do this: our Parliament is sovereign, so MPs should vote to do it.

    • Lindsay Jenkins
      Posted May 26, 2009 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      It was Patrick Nicholls, MP for Teignbridge. I was on a platform several years ago with Mr Stevenson and he had no idea of the impact of the CFP to my huge surprise. Perhaps he has found out!

  7. Ruth
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Agreed – the UK must take back control of its own seas. One thing the government could do very easily is create “no fishing” zones around the UK coast – these have been proven to not only protect and conserve species but also increase stocks for fishermen in surrounding areas.

    It’s a no-brainer, really.

  8. pipesmoker
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    JR I absolutely agree but add that it is not just fishing that we need to get back under domestic control.

    The one vote this country needs is whether it should remain a member of the EU or get out and for the last 34 years the political parties have conspired to deny it the public. That is the dishonesty that should be exposed and put right instead of the press carrying on about MP’s expenses?

    I vote Tory, with the exception of 1975, believing that if any party will confront this issue it will be them.

  9. upbeatskeptic
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    In relation to EU fishing (and indeed agricultural) policies, it has always been a source of confusion to me that those parts of the country most affected by EU agricultural and fishing policy are precisely those regions that generally support the Liberal Democrats with their almost uncritical pro-EU agenda. For example, I was in the Highlands (on the border of Ross and Caithness) visting family last Christmas, and I sat and listened for hours as a local fisherman enunciated with incredible articulacy the problems with the EU fishing policy, the problems they are causing his business, and what action needed to be taken to resolve the problem. He then carried on and listed the services their v. rural village had lost because of a slew of regulatory policies designed for urban living, which do not take into account, and yet force consent, from those isolated communities who would benefit least from the proposals (the biggest source of contention, believe it or not, for this particular village, being the regulation of drinking water – it had always been merely taken from the hills, but no more!). And indeed, in addition, my father-in-law is a shepherd in the Borders region, and he is finding out that, unless you’re a wealthy farmer capable of employing an estates manager, then you spend much less time with your livestock and much more time in your office trying to figure out the new rules and regulations you’re supposed to be implementing. Needless to say, this is both counter-intuitive and counter-productive.

    I think this general principle carries for other regions too: the south-west is largely Lib-Dem, as are the Shetland Islands, mid-Wales and the Berwickshire region – all agricultural regions with the most to gain from freeing themselves from the oppressive and sometimes bizarre regulatory controls of EU agricultural policies. Why do you suppose, all things considered, the Lib-Dems do so well in these areas?

  10. James
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I agree totally. Throwing dead fish back into the sea is an obcenity which must be stopped now.

    • Alan Phillips
      Posted May 27, 2009 at 5:47 am | Permalink

      I’ve always believed that too. In my view, once a quota has been reached, the surplus should taxed at a rate say 70% of the value. It wouldn’t make them an attractive option to say “oops I’ve caught too many, never mind at least I can cash in” but it would provide an insentive not to catch them, it makes it unviable cost wise to persue catching them. The surplus fish sold would also have the effect of driving down prices, so it will act as a deterent to over fishing also. Once they are dead, they don’t become un-dead by throwing them back.

  11. Lola
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Isn’t all the the result of the ‘tragedy of the commons’? If ownership of the fishing grounds can be successfully given to those that fish them, then they will be properly managed. Self interest will see to it.

  12. jean baker
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I applaud you …. the cost to taxpayers for ‘mind boggling incompetence’ and decimation of British fishermen’s livelihoods is more outrageous than Labour’s alleged ‘dodgy expenses’ system.

  13. APL
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    JR: “They tell us they believe in subsidiarity, they believe in devolving power.”

    No, Tories pretending to be EUroskeptic tell us this. People who know about the EU also know it sole aim is to centralize power and once centralized, hold it tight.

    JR: “What better test of their good intents than to tell them to give us back our fish?

    ‘They’ have no ‘good intents’ they are greedy for power and have enlisted the ‘Party’ aparatus in each country to accomodate their interests.

    There is a connection between the ‘Party’ control of politics, and the expenses scandal in the UK. The ‘Party’, be it Tory, Labour or Lib Dem, have used the expenses system to bribe, blackmail and cajole MPs into toeing the ‘Party’ line. The ‘Party’ line is these days handed down from Brussels.

    JR: “Our once great fishing industry has been badly damaged by the CFP. In the case of some ports and some species and fishing grounds it has been all but destroyed.”

    Yes, this is the ‘tragedy of the commons’, exactly what one would expect from a so called ‘ community resourse’.

    But the MPs supposedly representing fishing ports, indeed any MP supposedly representing British interests have been curiously quiet. They are more interested in the fishing quota that Luxembourg gets than the welfare of their constituents.

    Shameful!

  14. Freeborn John
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Most likely this CFP reform is designed to hook a bigger fish (Iceland) into the EU.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 26, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Good point.

      And not only do they want Iceland per se, they want to be able to hold out to the Irish the credible prospect of an accession treaty in the not too distant future.

      Why? Because the “legal guarantees” which will be offered to the Irish before the repeat referendum will in fact be non-binding promises, carrying no more legal weight than an election manifesto; but not to worry, trust us, they’ll be given legal force through a protocol attached to a future treaty.

      An accession treaty for Croatia in 2010 was being mooted, but the Croats and the Slovenes are at loggerheads over a patch of territory and until that’s resolved to their satisfaction the Slovenian government will veto the accession of Croatia to the EU.

      Having Iceland apparently lined up to be fast-tracked into the EU would provide a back-up plan for seducing the Irish.

  15. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Sorry John but you Tories in collusion with Labour & the Lib Dem’s gave us all these EU related disasters so it is a bit rich for any of the pro-Europeans such as Cameron , Brown & Clegg to lecture the voters on the corrupt , harmful and non-democratic monster that the EU has become. We voted for a free-trade area not a state of affairs which cost £40 million a day, causes mass immigration , the end of fisheries & farming and results in 80% or so of our laws being made in Brussels while our MP’s fill their time & their pockets milking the expenses scam.

    UKIP are dead right – lets give this USSR style insanity the heave ho – EU nations need our trade more than we need their red-tape ! Can we take it that the Tories when in office will give good old Patrick Nicholls a Peerage , name him Fisheries Minister and send him to Brussels to say the UK is opting out of the Common Fisheries Policy ? Why not at least suspend UK payments to the EU to fund reducing our vast budget deficits – until the EU accounts are signed off ?

    I want laws that reflect our national interest being made by our elected MP’s and being in the EU prevents that ! Surely that makes me a democrat not an extremist ?

    Vote UKIP is what I say !

  16. Independence Home
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Subsidiarity? Its amazing how EU-enthusiasts can always find an argument for centralisation and federalisation on just about anything. And that is the problem – subsidiarity is nothing more than a concept and it was never going to hold back integration.

    When will you and other Tory colleagues realise that the only desirable way forward is cooperation and trade and not political union, returning us to a collaborative Council of Europe like UKIP advocates? That means leaving the EU!

  17. pipesmoker
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    “We will therefore hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, pass a law requiring a referendum to approve any further transfers of power to the EU, negotiate the return of powers, and require far more detailed scrutiny in Parliament of EU legislation, regulation and spending.”

    Did David Cameron really say this? If so it is good news.

    • APL
      Posted May 26, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Pipesmoker: “Did David Cameron really say this? If so it is good news.”

      Trouble is Pipesmoker, how often does one allow oneself to be ‘taken for a mug’, by politicians who make promises then break those promises faster than the electoral returns are counted?

      It is no coincidence that the European elections are looming and suddenly the Tory ‘high command’ start ‘coming on’ all Eurosceptic. It must be a coincidence, really, it must be?

  18. Iain
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    “What is the government’s line on this?”

    And what is the oppositions line on this? I don’t hear anything, Cameron as far as I can tell isn’t making the Government’s life a misery over this, and thus forcing them to fight for our interests. No its Dave I don’t want to bang on about the EU!

    If trying to restore our fishing stocks and fishing communities isn’t a good enough reason for our politicians to get off their lazy backsides and seek to burry the CFP once and for all, then there is another very good reason for Cameron to engage in the issue. If the CPF is scrapped, then it creates a precedence for scraping other parts of treaties and repatriating sovereignty. If I am right in thinking the CFP is part of the Treaty of Rome, if you can renegotiate that, then any EU treaty can be renegotiated, and it shows they aren’t written in stone, and the world doesn’t come to an end if they are renegotiated. A point and precedence Cameron should be very interested in establishing, for that would give him some substance to his ‘we won’t leave it there’ promise over the Constitution. Unfortunately Cameron doesn’t seem to be very interested in establishing that precedence, so it should be a warning to us about his promise over the EU Constitution.

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 26, 2009 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      Did not Maggie Thatcher renegotiate more favourable terms some years ago, again proof if any were needed that it is possible.

      Labour also renegotiated a couple of years ago, only this time a British Prime Minister gave back hard won benefits, and we now have to put our hands deeper into our pockets to pay for it.

      So negotiation on anything is possible, if you have the will and determination, and are a bit bloody minded with it.

      Its all about having the will, the belief, and the courage.

      Time will tell if DC has the necessary attitude.

  19. no-name
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    What’s the government’s line on this?

    Same as everything else – they’ll form a committee to talk about it behind closed doors. Then, when the fuss has died down they’ll “discover” something everybody else knew all along.

    Just think, this government spent £300,000 researching ducks – and “discovered” they like water!

    http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/news/display.var.2509351.0.Government_spent_300_000_proving_ducks_like_rain.php

    You couldn’t make it up, could you?

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 26, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      They have also just spent £500,000 and TWO YEARS research finding out that commuters like trains to run on time.
      In Mondays Telegraph on yesterdays Blog.

  20. A. Sedgwick
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    CFP, CAP,MEP, EU – we could all live better without. Stuart Wheeler wrote in a recent article that our “membership” costs us £120 billion a year. If this is correct the solution to our national debt crisis could be solved at a stroke.

    • SJB
      Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      I think the figure he endorsed comes from his article in The Spectator. He wrote: “According to the highly respected think-tank the TaxPayers’ Alliance, our membership of the EU costs us £120 billion a year.”
      http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-magazine/features/3634493/part_2/why-im-voting-for-ukip.thtml

      It is debatable that the Taxpayers’ Alliance is “a highly respected think-thank” – pressure group is nearer the mark. For example, one of their recent assertions was that: “Article 308 is a treaty clause (one of three, in fact) that allows government ministers and Commissioners to pass a law in an AREA [my emphasis] that isn’t in fact authorised by the treaties.” While Article 308 has apparently been used 908 times not one recent example was given to support their claim that the new law was in an unauthorised area.
      http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/eu/2009/05/how-many-illegal-eu-laws.html#comments

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted May 27, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        I think they would be in all 908 cases, because otherwise there’d be no need to invoke Article 308.

        Pdf page 179 here:

        http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2006:321E:0001:0331:EN:pdf

        “If action by the Community should prove necessary to attain, in the course of the operation of the common market, one of the objectives of the Community, and this Treaty has not provided the necessary powers, the Council shall, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, take the appropriate measures.”

        • SJB
          Posted June 2, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          The treaties provide for financial sanctions against countries suspected of being involved in supporting terrorism. Post 9/11, it became necessary to apply sanctions against individuals on the same grounds. So Art 308 EC was used to pass a new law to accomplish this objective. Contrary to the assertion made by the TPA, it seems to me that the law fell within an area – viz. sanctions against suspected supporters of terrorism – authorised by the treaties.

          If you click on the TPA link (see earlier post above), you will see that not only did I point this out but I challenged the TPA to back-up their assertion by providing a specific example where Art 308 EC has been used “to pass a law in an area that isn’t in fact authorised by the treaties.” That request was made over two weeks ago.

  21. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    For at least ten years – maybe more, Christopher Booker has been banging on about this in the Telegraph.
    Nobody from any party has been remotely interested.
    This very evening, a Green Person was speaking about this very problem on Radio 4. What is needed, he considered, as anyone can see is far more centralised control. We urgently need an agreement which can be decided centrally. Any thought of letting the local nations decide for themselves how to manage the dwindling fish stocks is quite ridiculous. There are already far too many boats in far to small an area of sea. If we open up the sea to a free for all , then we can expect the already vanishing cod stocks to disappear in a very few days.
    I wonder if he has ever actually been on a fishing boat? I was once and, was I sick! Well, we’ll draw a veil over that shall we……
    The difference is that I am not micromanaging the fleet.
    How about putting all the experts, expenses paid, on a small boat in a force 7 to have a sea fishing fact finding mission?

    • Lola
      Posted May 27, 2009 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Green Person. ‘What we need is more centralised control’
      Me. ‘No, what we need is the exact opposite, more decentralisation and ownership by the fishermen”
      Green Person. ‘Oh. So you want the chaos of the market then? And we know just how that has failed don’t we?”
      Me. “Wrong again, sunshine. The ‘market’ (or me and you and everyone else) has actually done rather well in passing an accurate judgement on the epic failures of bureaucratism. And anyway markets are not chaotic. Bureaucracies are chaotic. Markets are ordered chaotically, or rather are continuously evolving, which is of course an anthema to bureaucracies who want control, because they just can’t keep up with the creative inventiveness of me and you and everyone else. We know what we are doing and bureaucracies don’t’.’

  22. Patrick Nicholls
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    John Redwood is of course entirely right and can I thank both the commentators who recalled that I was the Shadow Fisheries Minister under William Hague, when the Conservative Party changed its position on the CFP.

    I took a considerable amount of time and trouble to ensure that the reforms I was proposing would work. Crucially, I also took legal advice. I will not pretend that now I am out of the House of Commons that I am completely up to speed with the minutiae of the problem today.

    What I can say, however, is that fundamental problem remains, which is that the CFP perpetuates a solution when all the evidence shows that the solution is in fact the problem and the answer to the problem is the restoration of national control

    We are now nearly a decade on from when I suggested a differerent way forward. I believe that David Cameronh and his team should be given time to fine tune an approach which takes account of what has happened since my time.

    If we allow them that time, I am confident that party policy will indeed move in the directioin that John Redwood wants and that indeed we all want.

    Patrick Nicholls

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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