CAMPAIGNERS for Britain to regain control of its fishing waters after Brexit yesterday hailed signs that Theresa May is prepared to ban European Union boats from British seas.
Leaving the EU will see Britain automatically leave the bloc’s Common Fisheries Policy of quotas.
But fishing industry spokesmen have warned the UK will still be powerless to stop EU fleets accessing British marine stocks even after Brexit unless it also scraps the 1964 London Convention.
That treaty gives 12 other EU nations access to fishing waters between six and 12 nautical miles of the British coastline.
That would let the Prime Minister ban EU fishermen from our waters if Brexit talks with Brussels collapse, because there would then be no legal basis for EU fleets to continue fishing British waters.
Welcoming the reports, UK Independence Party MEP and fisheries spokesman Mike Hookem said it was “a victory in the long hard fight to regain Britain’s fishing industry”.
Fishing communities across the country voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU after seeing first-hand the destruction the CFP has wrought on the fishing industry and coastal towns.
“And for all the fighting talk coming out of Brussels about the EU ‘setting the rules’ for fishing post-Brexit, I for one will not rest until our waters and our fish are returned to British control.
Anything less would be yet another betrayal of hardworking fishing communities who want nothing more than to be allowed to make an honest living.”
Mrs May’s official spokesman yesterday described reports the PM was ready to pull the plug on the London Convention as “pure speculation”, adding: “When it comes to the Article 50 process, I’m not going to get into the negotiating process in advance.”
Many fisherman see Brexit as a chance to take back control of Britain’s seas, massively boosting coastal communities around the country.
The hated CFP governs how European boats can fish in each other’s waters.
Yearly quotas set how many of each species boats can catch, which opponents say is unsuitable for waters with such mixed stocks and causes an estimated million tonnes of good fish to be thrown back dead into the sea because captains would exceed their legal quotas if they landed them.
The Brexit-backing group Fishing for Leave has also pushed the case for leaving the London Convention, as well as breaking decisively from the CFP, to ensure foreign vessels do not retain “back door access” to our fish.
British boats should then have activity limited by “days at sea” rules to avoid over-fishing which would mean whole catches being landed with nothing discarded, ending waste and providing accurate information about stocks, says the group.
An estimated 60 per cent of fish now caught in UK waters are netted by European vessels, often to be processed on the Continent and sold back to British consumers.
Campaigners have previously voiced fears that the UK Government will too easily give up fishing rights when formal Brexit talks start with Brussels, in exchange for concessions it regards as more lucrative.
Fishing for Leave chief Alan Hastings told the Daily Express – from his boat off the West Coast of Scotland: “As we have highlighted, the Government has to denounce this London Convention if it truly means to take back control of our fisheries, otherwise the EU will have backdoor access to our waters because the Convention predates our EU membership.
“This Government has the opportunity to be the first in 40 years to patriotically look after this nation’s strategic interests.
“Our fishing industry could be rejuvenated to be worth £6.3billion a year and whether we take back control will be the acid test of Brexit.
“It is the first test of whether the Government is all mouth and no trousers or really does mean ‘Brexit means Brexit’.”
Sign Petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/185827
Ensure the British fishing waters are returned to the UK post Brexit
In the 1970s Edward Heath betrayed our fisherman and our coastal communities with the Common Fisheries Policy. A leaked report now shows that the EU wants to retain control over the fish stocks in British waters.
We call on Parliament to ensure these waters and fish stocks return to Britain