Whilst paragraph 73 of the draft political agreement states that "the United Kingdom will be an independent coastal state", read paragraphs 75 & 76:
75. Within the context of the overall economic partnership the Parties should establish a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares.
76. The Parties will use their best endeavours to conclude and ratify their new fisheries agreement by 1 July 2020 in order for it to be in place in time to be used for determining fishing opportunities for the first year after the transition period.
This is what Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, had to say:
"I’ve been involved in the industry for long enough to know how fishing rights were sold out before. I know how strongly EU member states feel about access to our fish stocks. There’s a whole section regarding trading goods being linked to fishing opportunities”
Conservative MPs in the South West of England have everything to fear. If enough of their voters sit on their hands in protest at the next general election, many of them could easily lose their seats. But it's not just those Conservatives in the South West that have something to fear.
If it wasn't for the amazing result in Scotland at the last election, Theresa May would not be Prime Minister today. Prior to the 2017 general election, the Conservative Party had (in common with Labour and the Liberal Democrats) just one MP in Scotland - Scotland Secretary, David Mundell. A total of 13 Conservatives were elected last year, putting the party in second place behind the Scottish National Party (SNP). (The Conservatives are also the official opposition in the Scottish Parliament)
Scottish Tories have made it clear that the UK becoming an independent coastal nation is one of their top priorities. The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is hated north of the border - and rightly so.
According to a House of Commons briefing paper published in December 2017:
"The tonnage of fish landed increased sharply from 553,000 tonnes in 1887 to 1.2 million tonnes in 1913. Following the disruption of the First World War, landings did not recover to their earlier levels, varying between 0.9 and 1.1 million tonnes in the period to 1938. Landings stayed around this level after 1945 until the early 1960s, when landings declined to below 0.8 million tonnes. They subsequently increased to peak at 1.0 million tonnes in 1973 (the year the UK joined the EU).
"Since then, landings have been in steady decline. Landings have stabilised at around 0.4 million tonnes since 2009; the lowest levels of any years outside the two world wars".
Please note, a million tonnes of fish were landed by the home fishing fleet in the UK the year we joined the EU. The current figure today is 60 per cent lower.
You would think that all of those 13 Conservative MPs representing Scottish constituencies would be very wary of "a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares". But amazingly, Scottish Tory MPs (apart from one notable exception - Ross Thomson, the MP for Aberdeen South) are heaping praise on the Prime Minister.
The draft withdrawal agreement, if approved, will be an international treaty - a legally binding document. The political declaration is not a legal document. It's a vague wish list. Anything in it can be negotiated away, but the current plan is to keep the CFP status quo. It is hardly taking back control. As The Guardian reports today:
"A leaked EU statement, due to be published on Sunday, the day of the summit, says it expects such a deal to be agreed by July 2020 [referred to in paragraph 76], and that it must protect the current rights of European fishing fleets to exploit British waters".
Scottish Conservatives should be very worried. The EU is not going to agree to anything that restricts its current fishing rights, no matter what Theresa May has to say.
Photo Credit: Bob Jones