May 7, 2020

Brexit fishing outrage: Ex-Grimsby MP recalls heartbreaking way EU caused port’s decline | UK | News

Before the negotiations on a future trade deal between the UK and Brussels started, the French government made it clear to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier that he had to push for stronger commitments on regulatory alignments and access to UK fishing waters in return for maintaining free trade. Ever since the 2016 EU referendum, French President Emmanuel Macron has been championing the bloc’s fisheries demands. In 2018, he suggested that if the UK was unwilling to compromise in negotiations on fishing, then talks on a wider trade deal would have been slow.

And in February, the Frenchman claimed he was willing to put up a fight over the issue.

According to the Telegraph, France wants Britain to grant EU countries access to UK fishing waters for at least 25 years after Brexit.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is unlikely to make any concessions on the matter.

Britons are not likely to forgive the former Mayor of London if he does cave in on Brussels’ demands, as the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was a central part in the Brexit campaign and the majority of British fishermen and people living in coastal towns pushed for Britain to leave the bloc.

British fishermen believe UK waters are not only overfished by other EU countries but that the CFP also means they are restricted as to how much they can fish.

In a report for the Brexit think tank ‘Red Cell’ titled ‘Putting The Fisheries Negotiations Into Context’ and published in March, former Grimsby MP and Brexit campaigner Austin Mitchell recalled just how much damage EU policies did to his constituency.

The coastal town of Grimsby in North East England was a Leave stronghold in the EU Referendum.

The vote was counted by local authority area, so Grimsby fell under North East Lincolnshire which voted 69.9 percent (55,185) to Leave the EU and 30.1 percent (23,797) to Remain.

Mr Mitchell wrote: “Fishing is a small industry creating an enormous problem.

“The Common Fisheries policy which made fish a common resource was cobbled together as Britain and Norway began negotiations to enter the Common Market. The intention behind it was to get access to British and Norwegian waters.

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“Norway rejected the proposal, but Ted Heath agreed to it in his desperation to get into the Market, assuming that British waters weren’t important because most of our catch then came from Iceland.

“Big mistake. Within four years we’d lost Iceland to find that we couldn’t follow the rest of the world in taking our own 200-mile limits because the CFP made us part of a ‘European pool’ to which we contributed around three quarters of the catch but got the right to catch less than a third.”

The former MP explained that the inevitable result was overfishing, as the European Commission doled out paper fish to please everyone.

Mr Mitchell said: “European vessels caught more of our own fish than we were allowed – 683,000 tonnes compared to 111,000 in 2016.

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“Policing to stop cheating and over-catching was inadequate but more importantly we couldn’t rebuild our fishing industry within our own waters as other nations were doing because British waters weren’t ours.

“So, both the industry and its processing side shrank, particularly in England because Scotland got a slightly better deal.”

He concluded: “As MP for Grimsby I had to watch the port’s decline, the collapse of fishing’s engineering, the shrinking of processing and the loss of Grimsby college’s fishing courses as our fleet dwindled from 500 vessels to a score.

“From that low point only Brexit gives us any prospect of rebuilding our own fishing industry in our own waters.”

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