“This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by ﬁsh. Only an organizing genius could produce a shortage of coal and ﬁsh at the same time” Aneurin Bevan MP (creator of the NHS)
speech at Blackpool, 24 May 1945 “. And now we import both! ” John Ashworth founder of Save Britain’s Fish December 2016 “Brexit means that the British fishing industry would be worth £6,284million to the British economy”. Fishing for Leave). 60% of the British Fish Fleet has been scrapped due to the EU.
Asked whether or not the UK was part of Europe
Clement Attlee put it succinctly “We’re semi-detached”. That’s too close for me!
Attlee refused to take Britain into the EESC, the precursor to the EU, in the Fifties, as he believed the country was not prepared to hand over its “most vital economic forces” to an “utterly undemocratic” authority.
But eventually the culture of deceit was the Heath Government’s response to the crude ambush set up by the Six to ensure that, as part of their price of entry, the four applicant countries, Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Norway, would have to hand over to the Community their fishing waters, the richest in the world. (PRO files in FO 30/656-9).
On the very day the applications went in, June 30 1970, the Six hastily approved the principle that member-states should be given “equal access” to each other’s fishing waters, under Brussels control. The point was that, because this had now become part of the acquis communautaire, the body of existing Community law, the applicant countries would have to accept it as a fait accompli. Within a few years, as everyone knew, national fishing waters were due to be extended out under international law to 200 miles. Because the waters belonging to the four applicant states would then contain most of the fish in European waters, this would give the Six an astonishing prize.
In fact the six knew their new fisheries policy was not even legal. Among the Foreign Office papers released in 2001 was an internal Council of Ministers document, dating from June1970, which shows how desperate the Brussels lawyers had been to find some article in the Treaty of Rome which could be used to authorise such a policy. There was none. The policy therefore had no legal justification, and other papers show that the Foreign Office knew this too.
But so determined was Heath not to offend his prospective new partners that he decided not to challenge them. Britain would simply accept the illegal new fisheries policy, even though this would mean handing over one of her greatest renewable natural assets and would spell disaster for a large part of her fishing fleet.
Gradually the British fishermen got some idea that they were about to be sacrificed, and in the closing months of 1970 various MPs for fishing constituencies wrote to ministers asking what on earth was going on. They were fobbed off with evasive replies. Indeed, as the recently released papers show, civil servants eventually worked out a careful form of words, intended to reassure the fishermen that “proper account would be taken of their interests”. But behind the scenes, as a Scottish Office memo put it on November 9, ministers were being told how important it was not to get drawn into detailed explanations of just what problems might lie ahead for the fishermen because, “in the wider UK context, they must be regarded as expendable”.
The following year the White Paper promised that Britain would not sign an accession treaty until the Common Market’s fisheries policy was changed, Geoffrey Rippon repeated this promise to Parliament and to the Tory Party conference. But in November Heath realised that time was running out. Unless he accepted the fishing policy as it stood, his plans for Britain’s entry in January 1973 would have to be abandoned.
Heath instructed Rippon to give way, and when Rippon was questioned about this in the House of Commons on December 13, he answered with a straight lie. He claimed Britain had retained complete control over the waters round her coastline, knowing that this was simply not true. So barefaced was this deceit over fishing rights that successive governments and fisheries ministers would continue to obfuscate the truth of what had been done for the next three decades.
They’ve lied ever since. They still do. They’ll never change!