by Lee Rotherham
Today’s piece from the Fisheries minister was welcome, insofar as it went. But as that wasn’t far at all, you might as well be praising a Porsche for having a splendidly shiny handbrake.
Everyone now has come to long agree that the CFP is a complete disaster. MPs who stood up for fishing constituencies in the face of massive political pressure (especially Sir Richard Body, who bravely resigned the whip in protest at policy) have since been completely vindicated. There have even been detailed attempts to cost it as far as the UK is concerned that give us some solid figures to wave under the nose of the Treasury.
Everybody knows the policy is rubbish. So why bother talk?
Act. Unilaterally. Ban discards at sea for all vessels operating in UK territorial waters. Everything has to be landed, weighed, and logged. Do it on environmental grounds. If need be, call in Health and Safety. Heck, pray in aid the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Article 1 will do (human dignity); or Article 4 (degrading treatment); maybe 5.2 (forced labour), or best of all Article 15 – the right to pursue a freely chosen occupation. That means the right, simply put, to work – which this monstrous EU policy has destroyed.
You can leave it up to the next meeting of the Council of Ministers to decide what to do with the landed catch. There will be a lot of it, and the solutions have already long been floated. Ask Owen Paterson.
Oh, and if you get fined, you’re not paying. Every fortnight you pay £800 million into the EU’s Treasury, not out.
Minister, it took a decade and a half for your EU predecessors just to agree to change one mesh size to help more juvenile fish escape. Sounding off about how bad the situation is merely demonstrates your impotence. You may as well write in to the Guardian for as much good as it will do. There’s no mystery in all this; previous fisheries spokesmen “got it”, from Patrick Nicholls onwards. They knew that the only solution was a radical solution, because as long as the CFP exists Britain’s coastal communities are strangled.
Lib Dem MPs in North Scotland and the South West know that, so co-opt them in the name of ecology, common sense, and their constituents. Since you’re not withdrawing from the fisheries articles of the treaty – though heaven knows you should – but from operational mechanisms, it shouldn’t spook your ministerial colleagues at Cowley Street if they have a finger on the pulse of half their seats.
Don’t chatter, minister; crack on. We’ve had too much talk, starting with the broken promise to our fishing community to protect them back in 1972.