TUV Leader Jim Allister spoke up strongly in support of the local fishing industry in a recent debate in the Assembly. Mr Allister, who worked closely with the industry when an MEP, accused DARD and government of taking the industry for granted and contrasted the rightful emergency aid to farming, arising from the spring weather, with the refusal to do anything to help fishermen.
Mr Allister, an ardent Eurosceptic, also used his speech to call for the repatriation of fishing policy from the Europe, describing the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy as an unmitigated disaster which had reduced our industry to a mere shadow of its former self.
In the course of his remarks Jim Allister said:-
“It is probably an understatement to say that the fishing industry is a very difficult and very dangerous industry. We had a sad reminder of the latter just last week when, off the coast of Southern Ireland, three brothers, all fishermen, tragically lost their life. In the comfortable lives that we collectively lead, it is easy to forget the discomfort in which fishermen operate and the dangers and difficulties that they face. It is an industry that is, sadly, taken for granted, not just by society but obviously, given the response that government makes to it, by government.
“The point has been well made that, in recent weeks, we saw a response to the horrendous weather that afflicted our farming industry. Yet the same horrendous weather afflicted our fishing industry but went unheeded and without response. It seems, sadly, that the fishing industry is being taken for granted.
“The fishing industry has also been taken for a ride by the European Union. If we contrast the state, the flourishing nature and the aspirations and achievements of our fishing industry in 1973, when we joined the European Union, with the situation in 2013, we see that it is like day and night. The industry has been sacrificed through the folly of the common fisheries policy to the point that it has been run down to near extinction in many places.
“In these British Isles, we had the most flourishing and successful fishing industry: today, it is a mere shadow of itself.
“That is by no accident but by the design of the common fisheries policy. Although we need to help the industry locally, we need to help it internationally by withdrawing powers over fishing policy from the European Union and repatriating them. European Union control over fishing policy has been a disaster for our fishing industry throughout the United Kingdom. That is a call that I reiterate today.
“Under the common fisheries policy, we have seen the absurdity of the lamentably failing cod recovery scheme, which, year on year, has made things worse not better. We have seen the amoral approach to discard policy, where perfectly edible fish, courtesy of a Brussels diktat, by their hundreds of tons have been cast back into the sea to rot. That has happened because someone in Brussels thought that it was the right and smart thing to do. In the current reform of the common fisheries policy, we are told that the discard policy is going to be reversed. The sooner the better, because it has been a scandal for many years.
“Also under the reform, we are told that there is to be more regional control over fisheries. Is there? When I look at the detail, the same infrastructural and overarching control of Brussels will exist, so Brussels will still be pulling the strings for how regions behave under the common fisheries policy.
“Those cosmetic changes are not what we need. We need the repatriation of fisheries policy to the United Kingdom so that Members in the House, to whom that power could be devolved, can take decisions. They would have to stop hiding behind Brussels and blaming it for everything that goes wrong. Brussels is often properly blamed, but sometimes it is blamed out of convenience. It is time that the policy on fisheries was returned from Brussels to the United Kingdom, because it is an industry that can flourish. When I was a member of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee, I once made a visit to Norway. I was staggered by the contrast in the cod industry there to that here.
“There, I saw the vibrant success of the industry outside the EU. Inside the EU, we have seen the destruction of our industry.”
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