Updated: Feb 13, 2021
Some thoughts from Hillingdon's Liberal Democrat Spokesperson, Jonathan Banks
The Brexit ship has sailed, but when it comes to our fishing industry, some background might be helpful as we get some clarity on the outcome of our EU negotiations…
The fishing and fish processing industries at £1.4bn is just over 0.1% of our GDP, and involves just under 0.1% of the UK’s workforce. Fish processors employ 16,000, significantly more than our 12,000 fishermen.
It’s true that our fishing fleet used to be much larger than it is today. Grimsby used to be the largest fishing port in Europe let alone the UK. Today, many jobs in fish processing rely on friction-free importing and exporting of raw materials and added value product.
We often hear it was the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) that decimated our fishing industry, but that is rewriting history without any acknowledgment of what really caused its demise – or, put more simply: it’s a lie!
The real problem was Iceland and the Cod Wars. There were 3, caused by Iceland extending its Exclusive Economic Zone – in other words – their territorial waters, excluding our boats from some of the richest fishing grounds:
Iceland threatened to withdraw from NATO which, in the Cold War era, would have been problematic, especially if US forces had been expelled from Iceland. Iceland’s strategically useful location gave it a strong negotiating position and NATO facilitated bringing these wars to an end.
After that The EU (or the EEC as it was then) introduced the concept of a ‘common pond’ for its members with its own 200 nautical mile limit. The CFP didn’t come in to force until 1983.
The CFP allocated fishing rights to member states based on historical share of catches between 1973 and 1978. This was felt by some to be unfair, mainly because it ignored our fishing effort outside of European waters.
This leaves us now in a position where the UK doesn’t want to eat what the UK catches. We import 70% of the fish we eat (e.g. cod), and export 80% of what we catch (e.g. herring). Both sides of that equation benefit from frictionless borders.
So when you hear politicians shout about reclaiming our fishing rights they’re being somewhat disingenuous – it implies we’ve been robbed of something we never had!
Let us know what you think – join the debate on Twitter @Jonathan_MBanks