Never Mind the Scallops, Here’s Brexit
How fishing battles have come to define Britain’s relationship with the EU.
Yesterday, war was declared.
A scallop war.
Don’t titter, it’s serious.
For decades, British and French scallop fishermen have shared an Entente Cordiale around how and where scallops can be harvested in our shared seas, in order for fair distribution of resources between allies.
This year however, the gentleman’s agreement has appeared to collapse and British fishermen have been allegedly stripping the scallop beds, so that there’s nothing left for the French.
Yesterday, the situation came to a head and around twenty French vessels surrounded about five British boats, and pelted them with stones.
No-one was injured, though the British fishermen claim some criminal damage to their boats.
It’s yet another dark turn in what will surely be referred to by historians as the “The Anglo-Franco Fish Fights”. Not as catchy as the “Cod Wars” admittedly. Better than something unimaginative like “scallop-gate”, though.
This most recent development in The Great British Scallop Scrap is allegedly entirely down to Brexit.
Whereas ordinarily, the fishing industry of each nation agrees on mutual terms of how and where to fish, on a sectoral basis — i.e. scallop fishermen in France and the UK sit round the table and work out who gets what and when — this year, because of Brexit, no such sectoral deals were hammered out.
Precisely because the British government plans to use the fishing industry as a bargaining chip in trade deal negotiations with the EU, these scallop fisherman have been allegedly told not to negotiate individually.
This isn’t actually a massive surprise.
Fishing has played an integral role in the British anti-EU campaign for decades, and ties in acutely with key aspects of the Brexiter mentality.
Nigel Farage loves a bit of fish. Or more accurately, loves going off about the EU destroying the British fishing industry.
He pulls stunts like throwing dead fish into the Thames and burning boats, because he believes doing so will be more helpful to British fishermen than attending more than one of the 42 EU fishery meetings he could have attended during his time as an MEP.
According to the chief exec of the National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisation (I assume they added the Organisation so as not to be referred to as the NFF — very close to another of Farage’s favourite organisations), French fishermen fish:
“Five or six times as much in UK waters as we do in theirs”
But that’s not the biggest issue for Brexiters when it comes to fish.
They argue that we are in thrall to the whims of the EU when in terms of abiding by directives on quotas regarding how much, where and how fish can be caught (obviously ignoring that as a member of the EU, we have a direct say in what those directives and quotas are).
“We must take back control of our fish!” they cry. “Make fish British again”.
As a result, the government has ensured that the fishing industry’s demands for a “fairer deal” will be met, by proposing new legislation post-Brexit that means British fisherman will set their own quotas for how much fish they can catch, how they catch it and where.
Taking back control — yes, finally a Brexit success story!
Well, I mean, until they overfish the fuck out of the channel because they become greedy with the new found power to fish how, when and where they like, and end up destroying their own industry — an industry that is worth just £1 billion by the way (or around 0.05% of GDP).
Yay! Fishing. That’ll keep us going in the post-Brexit hellscape. For a few months. Maybe.
Bye EU. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
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Jackson Rawlings is a political philosopher, writer and thinker with some big ideas about how we can change the world for the better.
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