Trawls the archives to discover the truth behind the UK's entry into Europe
Hidden in the secret archives of the Foreign Office for nearly 30 years, only
recently has a remarkable document been published — the official account of
the negotiations from Britain’s entry to the EEC.
Not for nothing was the document hidden, for it reveals that the negotiations were a sham, covering up an abject surrender by the British negotiators. It was written by the the head of the British delegation, Sir Con O’Neil of the Civil Service, who said that the guiding principle for entry was to accept everything the Community demanded, without alteration. He summed it up as a determination to ‘swallow it whole, and swallow it now'.
That included more than 13,000 pages of regulations
which had been passed by the Community since its creation, most of which had not
been officially translated into English, and were thus accepted sight unseen. But
the most notorious was the regulation which set up the Common Fisheries Policy
(CFP), which was agreed eight hours after the Community had opened its accession
negotiations with the United Kingdom in 1971.
When the Norwegians, who were just as concerned as the British about the possible effect of the CFP, asked for consultation, before the full detail was decided, their request was ‘treated with some derision' The idea that a candidate for membership being entitled to be consulted on the formulation on one of the Community’s policies was regarded as ‘heresy'.
When the British asked for a chance to change the regulation, they were told that ‘formal decisions taken by the Community during the period of the negotiations... would have to accept these just as they were being asked to accept other decisions taken under the treaties at earlier dates'.
That the Community passed the regulations before the candidates were able to change the regulation was not accidental. Prior to Britain seeking to join the EEC, there had been barely any interest in a Community fisheries policy, not least because the six founding countries of the EEC had control of very little fishing resource. Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Norway, however, all had rich coastal fisheries, which had been kept in good condition by effective conservation measures.
Yet experts from the British Ministry of Agriculture produced 'fairly conclusive’ evidence, that ‘the waters within our own fishing limits were teeming with fish’, while there were none at all within the fishing limits of the present Community countries. The main plank of the evidence was that Community waters did not attract foreign fishermen. British waters did.
Norway was sensible enough to refuse to join the EEC. Its
reward has been a healthy fishing industry, and one of the most prosperous
economies in Europe. But, after 30 years of the CFP, Britain’s waters
no longer teem with fish. And the largest British fleet to survive, the Scottish
white fish fleet, is now facing cuts of eight per cent (NOW 30-45%) in the
amount of fish it is allowed to catch. Some 20,000jobs are at risk and the
industry is unlikely to survive.
All of this arises from two insane demands from the EU.
First, the whole of the waters of EU member states are treated as a ‘common resource’, with ‘equal access’ afforded to all member states, including the British waters which account for 85 per cent of all Community fish. This means that the predatory fleets owned by the Spanish and French, have rights to fish in Britain’s waters, their share of the fish being set according to the size of their fleets, both of which are far larger than the British fleets.
Second, the allocation is based on what is known as ‘total allowable catches’, determined by politicians rather than scientists, who allocate fishing rights without any reference to the actual number of fish available. Translated into national ‘quotas’ for different species, the ultimate insanity is that fishermen are forced to throw back into the sea any fish for which they have no quotas, a process called ‘discarding'.
Unfortunately, the fish without quota do not know that they are not supposed to be caught, and the fishermen have no way of knowing what they have caught until they lift their nets out of the water, by which time the fish are dead. Thus, as many fish are thrown back into the sea, their bodies polluting the sea bed, as are actually landed.
And that is only the start. Despite its pretence of being concerned for conservation, the EU allows more than a million tons of immature fish and sand eels to be caught each year, destroying the very food source on which popular species such as cod rely. And, because these ‘industrial’ fisheries hoover up everything that get in the way of their net, they catch many adult fish — a ‘by-catch' And to legitimise this slaughter, the industrial fishermen are permitted to take more cod as ‘by-catch’ than the whole of the British fleet is allowed to take as their national quota.
But if British fishermen are suffering, so are those in developing countries, as the EU buys up fishing rights from cash-starved maritime countries to feed the voracious predatory Spanish fleets, who have fished out their own waters. The ‘third country fishing deals’ are big business. Between 1993 and 1997 they accounted for 1, 053 million euros from Community funds and in 1998 accounted for five per cent of the total Community external budget. Yet, according to a report from the United Nations Environment Programme, issued on 27 December 2001 , ‘Developing countries which open up their waters to foreign fishing fleets may lose far more than they gain! The report goes on to note that over-exploitation resulting from such a deal is ‘driving people into ever greater poverty’ as well as ‘robbing the marine environment of a key link in the food chain.
Courtesy of a British Channel 4 TV documentary on the Mauritania agreement, we also know that the agreements actually cost lives. More than 200 local fishermen have been killed, some deliberately run down by EU fishing boats. Others have been lost as they are forced further out to sea in frail craft in order to catch the fish left by the industrial fishing fleets.
Yet all of this seems to have passed by the Commission. It sponsored its own report in 1999, which concentrated on the economic benefits to Community countries. This is a strange slant, considering that some of the funding comes from the external (i.e. development) budget.
However, even this report - which was essentially a ‘whitewash’ conceded that there were problems with the agreements, noting that countries ‘did not always have sufficient means to enforce inspection arrangements’, something of an under-statement, and recording that, as regards the funds paid to third countries, ‘the destination of the funds paid into national budgets is not traceable'.
In fact, this is the biggest scandal of all. Most of the money paid from Community funds goes to the political elites of the countries concerned and very little of it reaches the indigenous fishermen who are effectively robbed of their livelihoods. Essentially, money from EU taxpayers - including the poor - is being paid to the rich of third world countries robbing the poor to feed the rich!
Currently, however, the whole of the CFP is undergoing ‘reform' But the reality is that the proposals are more of the same, with less control over the policy by member states, and more by the unelected Commission. More fish will go to the Spaniards, and then there are the fleets of the enlargement countries to accommodate. They too will be lining up to take from the diminishing stock of fish in UK waters, while the British fleet is finally wiped out.
That is the price we have paid for ‘swallowing the lot. A proud industry is on the point of collapse and fish and chips are set to become a luxury food. That is the price of our past and continued membership of the EU.
December 2002/January 2003 FIRST VOICE 17