MEP fears Brexit betrayal with "smoke and mirrors" near-water fishing changes

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 3 Jul 2017

REGIONAL MEP and UKIP Fisheries Spokesman, Mike Hookem MEP, has said he fears another “wholesale betrayal” of Britain’s fishing communities following the Government's withdrawal from the London Fisheries Convention.

Despite Environment Secretary Michael Gove underlining it was an "historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union," the unsuccessful Great Grimsby election candidate voiced his dismay at   the failure to give assurances on restricting access for EU vessels in the UK’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) post-Brexit.                                 

Speaking from his home city of Hull, Mr Hookem called on the Government to clarify "once and for all its big picture position’ on fisheries post-Brexit". He said: "The Conservative Manifesto spoke about securing our 'traditional waters'. Our pre-EU waters constituted a 12-mile limit; not the 200-mile EEZ that is now mandated by the United Nations. Not acting to make sure we can fully exploit our rights post-Brexit, smacks of yet another political betrayal of the UK fishing industry that will see most of Britain’s fisheries rights handed to the EU.

“Therefore, the Government’s position on fisheries post-Brexit demands urgent clarification. I know from sitting in the PECH (fisheries) committee of the European Parliament that the EU is making plans to continue the terms of its Common Fisheries Policy in British waters post-Brexit.

“While Michael Gove may say withdrawing from the London Convention ‘secures Britain’s control over fisheries’, the reality is very different."

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show over the weekend, Mr Gove twice refused to rule out EU vessels fishing in Britain’s waters and kept repeating, “we get to decide.” Picking up on this, Mr Hookem said: "It is as obvious as the nose on your face that means Britain’s fisheries will be used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations and the terms of the CFP are likely to continue. The bureaucrats in Brussels have already decided that!

“The fact is, leaving the London Convention does nothing more than secure a six-mile belt within the 200-mile limit we are entitled to under UN law. Leaving the London Convention is only one small part of securing Britain’s maritime rights post-Brexit and the Government is failing in its duty to the people by not giving full details of its position on this issue."  

Mr Hookem spoke about the potential for fishing, particularly day boats of 10 to 15m, returning in nnumbers to Grimsby once Britain is out of Europe during his campaign. But his commitment to an industry the town was built on saw him poll just 4 per cent of the vote, with 1,648 marking his box as UKIP's share collapsed as it did in many constituencies. 

It had campaigned nationally on a role to keep the Conservative Party on the 'right track' with Brexit, but many clearly saw the one-policy party's job complete. And where some thought the vote may go blue, it went red, with Melanie Onn building on her 2015 majority.

He said: "Fishing communities across Britain voted to leave the EU to get back the rights to earn a living, support their communities and to stop the EU plundering our seas of fish that the UK could exploit economically. They voted to create jobs and rebuild their communities, not to be fobbed off through gesture politics.

“Put simply, leaving the London Fisheries Convention without assurances that the UK will claim, enforce and exploit our full 200-mile EEZ for the UK’s benefit is no victory for the fishing community. It’s a Government attempt to use smoke and mirrors to placate British fishermen, while at the same time having the option of handing most of our fishing rights to the EU.

“The fact is, there is a big difference in been able to 'decide who can access our waters' and securing our rights for British fisherman. We must give coastal communities the opportunity to earn a living again. The fishing industry is potentially worth £6.3 billion to the UK economy, and not to grasp the opportunities that Brexit presents to exploit it for the national good is foolhardy in the extreme."

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