Yesterday, Conservative MP Sir John Hayes delivered a brilliant speech in the House of Commons, in which he branded the EU’s controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) a “conservation disaster”. The 61-year-old – who served on the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Select Committee for two years – hit out at the fishing quotas, adding that Britain signed up to the “decimation of our oceans”. Sir John said: “This is the question that needs to be answered by members opposite in particular.
“The truth of the matter is that the Common Fisheries Policy was not only disastrous for fishing communities and fishermen.
“It was also a conservation disaster for our oceans.
“Anyone who signs up to the European Union, signs up to the CFP and signs up to decimation of our oceans.”
The CFP was a central part in the Brexit campaign during the 2016 referendum and the majority of British fishermen and people living in coastal towns pushed for the country to leave the bloc, as they believe UK waters are not only overfished by other EU countries but that the policy restricts them as to how much they can fish.
A 2000 report by the Daily Telegraph, though, shockingly suggests that it was Britain’s own fault if the country has been penalised by the Common Fisheries Policy.
Sir Con O’Neill, the diplomat who led British officials in the delegation to negotiate Britain’s membership of the EEC, wrote in a report that the government would have paid any price to join the bloc in the early Seventies.
Sir Con’s report claims the principle that guided the negotiations leading to Britain’s accession to the EEC, which took place between 1970 and 1972, was “swallow the lot and swallow it now”, as the only thing that mattered was to get in.
One of the things Britain was ready to “swallow” included its fisheries, according to the report.
The diplomat acknowledged mistakes in the fishing talks, as he claimed his negotiating team “failed to foresee the way in which, and the intensity with which, political pressures on the question of fishing limits would develop”.
Sir Edward Heath, then Prime Minister, dismissed the notion that he had betrayed British fishermen as “absurd and insulting”.
However, Sir Con’s account suggests that British negotiators could have stopped the adoption of a CFP if they had realised how important the issue was.
He wrote: “I have no doubt that we made mistakes.
“The first was in not trying harder than we did to stop the adoption of a common fisheries policy. I believe we could have at least postponed such an agreement; and if we had, it is possible, though questionable, that we could have postponed it indefinitely.
“Almost a year later, we made a major mistake in putting the proposals we put to them on June 1, 1971.
“Why was our handling of the issue of fisheries far more uncertain, and more faulty, than our handling of other issues?
“We did not at the outset realise how acute the question would become and, in part, our retreat from our opening position and the gradual stepping up of our demands was due simply to the mounting political pressure exercised upon us.”
The account only became public 19 years ago as, according to the Daily Telegraph, it would have caused controversy and might have offended the French and other governments.
Sir David Hannay, the former British ambassador to the UN who edited the account, told the publication: “This was considered to be a reasonably sensitive document and was treated as very restricted.”
Britain formally joined the EEC on January 1, 1973.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeatedly said Brexit will give British fishermen the chance to gain back full control of their waters.
However, according to sources in Brussels, fishing is expected to become a contentious issue during trade talks next year as French, Dutch and Danish fishermen have long capitalised on free access to British waters.
France’s Emmanuel Macron will reportedly maintain his hardline approach to Brexit by championing the bloc’s fisheries demands.
Sources close to the French President claimed he could even block any future deal unless his requests are met for access to British waters.
Yesterday, Conservative MP Sir John Hayes delivered a brilliant speech in the House of Commons, in which he branded the EU ‘s controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) a “conservation disaster”. The 61-year-old – who served on the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Select Committee for two years – hit out at the fishing quotas, adding that Britain signed up to the “decimation of our oceans”.