Reports are that a Brexit deal is near. In the Twittersphere everyone from Guido Fawkes to Sky News correspondents report that their sources indicate that the trade deal in discussion is mostly complete. The Sun reports that the last-minute hold up is a dispute over the UK’s right to import cheap car batteries from China, a right the EU understandably wants to curtail. It begs the question; why are we bothering to expend our political capital to fight for the right to import more cheap tat, rather than make our own? But then again those making the decisions are above my pay grade. In any case the real danger, comes in the form of fishing, about which there is much speculation. I do not know whether the speculation on this question is correct, about which more later, but what is for sure is that if the speculators are proved right, and Boris sells out our fishermen, he’ll be sinking his own ship in the same fell swoop.
Reports indicate that Boris is set to agree a five-year transition period, from the point at which the trade deal is agreed (which itself is four years post-Brexit) in which the EU will have time to reduce the fish they catch in UK waters by one third. One third. Is the point of Brexit to import cheap Chinese batteries to undercut the efficacy of economic viability of European manufacturers, or is it to revive and renew our country, a central plank of which is fishing? If these reports are true, and again I stress that they may not be, then it would seem David Frost and Boris Johnson imagine it to be the former. These crumbs said to be on offer simply will not suffice, and will not repay adequately the people of Grimsby and elsewhere who entrusted Boris and this Conservative government to revitalise their fishing industry, and level up their towns and regions. The UK should control 100% of its fishing waters, and if compromise is needed, could agree to move down to 90% in return for adequate financial remuneration.
If we sell out on fishing, then this sell out would mark the beginning of the end for Boris Johnson. Fishing was always a major plank of the Brexit prospectus. As an island nation, fishing has always been integral to our national wellbeing, our identity, and our economy. That under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy it was reduced to a husk is a damming indictment of the uncaring attitude successive governments have adopted toward the industry, and indeed toward this element of our national identity. The prospective agreement indicates that this damaging and dismissive attitude may yet be prevailing amongst our leaders, despite their promises to the contrary.
Britannia once ruled the waves, and at the heart of Brexit was the promise of a reconnection with this historic ideal which in five words encapsulated the promise and potential of Britain. If the fishermen get a bad deal, the rebuke of Boris will extend beyond coastal communities. It will be an indication that for all the bluster, the rhetoric and the flag waving, the import of foreign goods and the expansion of financial service exports have been privileged over the wants and needs of workers. It will also be a good indication that the UK has capitulated on state aid, and that steel, and shipbuilding will follow our fishermen down the drain. Followed shortly thereafter by Boris himself. Of course if the ‘doomsters’ are proven wrong, and the lion’s share of Britain’s fish is awarded to, heaven forfend, the British, then Boris could shore up his position as one of the most iconic and beloved of British Prime Ministers. It will be one, or the other.