Conservatives saw fishing as “expendable” in 1972. They still do.

Posted on: 23rd August 2019

The Conservatives secretly described the fishing industry as “expendable” in 1972, when negotiating access to the European Union. Many believe they still take the fishing industry for granted.

Liberal Democrat MEPs Caroline Voaden (SW) and Cornish woman Lucy Nethsingha (MEP for East of England) accompanied, local Parliamentary candidate and former MP, Andrew George, on a visit of Newlyn today. We met fishing leaders including the Chief Exec of the CFPO, Paul Trebilcock, Harbour Master, Rob Parsons, fish merchants and exporters and EU Fisheries grants advisor Chris Ranford.

They looked at how Brexit may affect the industry generally and the port of Newlyn in particular. Commenting after the visit Andrew George said:

“As we expected, we met some ardent Brexit enthusiasts but who admit they aren’t confident Brexit will work out well for the industry. Yet we also met as many Remain voting Brexit-sceptics who asked not to be identified because of a perceived intimidating climate locally. We of course also met professionals who were scrupulously agnostic.

Loud uncertainty

“The resounding message from all of those we met was a the sharp sucking-in of air and the language of uncertainty.

“There has always been one industry which most Remainers have been willing to acknowledge ought to expect a potential improvement in their deal if the UK leaves the EU. And that is the catching sector of the fishing industry in Cornwall and the south west of England.


“The Conservatives privately described the fishing industry as “expendable” when negotiating access to the EU in 1972/3. The poor deal they negotiated then placed the industry at a perpetual disadvantage – especially regarding access to fishing quotas in western waters where UK boats often have less than a tenth of the catch awarded to the French.

“But any benefits of Brexit will not amount to the complete “take back control” asserted by ardent Brexit right-wingers. Foreign boats will still fish in British waters. The quota system will still dictate a limitation to catches. But the operation of the market, especially the crucial export market, is likely to be even less predictable and technical, veterinary and bureaucratic barriers will have an impact if the UK leaves with the anticipated poor deal. Even worse with a No deal. In spite of an improvement in domestic consumption, Newlyn still relies on a majority of the catch landed being exported to the EU.

A cruel hoax

“We still fear the industry is being offered a cruel hoax of extravagant Brexit promises which cannot be delivered.

“We must also help the industry prepare for the high likelihood that the Conservatives will continue to make a complete horlicks of their Brexit planning and negotiations.

“Cornish fishermen deserve a better deal than Tory and Labour fishing ministers have granted them in recent decades. It is clearly ridiculous that our fishermen have such a minuscule portion of the available quota in western waters.”

Andrew G, Caroline V, Paul Trebilcock, Lucy N