Scott Mann MP: Cornwall's fishermen have been treated heinously under the Common Fisheries Policy

Throughout the EU Referendum campaign, one thing that we heard repeatedly from Remain campaigners was that Cornwall would lose tens of millions of pounds in funding from Brussels. Aside to the fact that the current funding programme is due to end by 2020 anyway and that the EU had not hinted at any further funding, they failed to mention that this was actually British taxpayers’ money being recycled with extra strings attached.

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Of course, the assumption that current funding would disappear was complete fiction, as was most of the Remain rhetoric about economic meltdown and World War Three. 

What wasn't fiction, though, was the heinous way in which Cornwall's fisherman had been treated under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It's very easy to sit in a campaign office in Westminster and spout the virtues of being a member of the EU and produce scare stories, but go down to an actual fishing community on the coast of Cornwall and you'll see the real consequences of our membership over four decades. 

Knock on a few doors and speak to the families who made a living on the sea. They'll tell you how hard things have been under a policy where your politicians have to go into a room and fight for quotas in your own waters. 

The fact that their historical fishing grounds were overrun with foreign trawlers carrying huge quotas was, funnily enough, unmentioned in Remain literature. 

You don't have to travel far along the Cornish coast before you come across a fishing village. Of course, fishing boats can be seen down on the beaches or floating in the harbour, but the vibrancy of these coastal communities has gradually diminished over the years. 

Cornwall produces a fantastic quality of fish, but the amount that its fisherman have been able to claim has reduced, and we now find ourselves having to preserve certain species because EU policy has allowed them to be dangerously overfished. 

In June last year we saw fisherman sail up the River Thames to bring home the reality of what they were facing. Most people walking the streets of London would probably have never seen a fishing trawler before, yet it's these brave souls who put food on the table in exclusive London restaurants. 

And we saw the real contempt towards our fisherman when Remain celebrity Bob Geldof and his army of liberal luvvies chased them up river to Parliament. The image of these city slickers throwing insults and putting up two fingers was, for me, a metaphor of the separation between metropolitan liberal London and the rural communities where fisherman and farmers are grafting away. 

Many MPs including myself were fully supportive, waving our Vote Leave flags and banners on the House of Commons Terrace. 

Now that the public have voted to leave, we can forget about that and look forward to getting out of the CFP and giving our waters back to our fisherman. In the months since the referendum, Remainers have continued to put forward soft Brexit ideas by wanting to stay members of the Single Market. Wanting to stay a member of the Single Market but having no place at the table is possibly the worst deal you could ask for. There is no such thing as soft or hard Brexit, it’s either Brexit or no Brexit. 

Thankfully, the Prime Minister has now confirmed that we will be ceasing membership of the Single Market with no half in-half out stuff. 

We can now look forward to the end of the CFP and implementing a domestic fisheries policy which is accountable to Westminster. This said, we should not bar foreign trawlers from fishing in our waters - British fisherman will want to fish in EU waters as well, and I'm sure we can come to an agreement on this. What is imperative is that our fisherman, in British waters, are put first and that we have proper policies and bodies in place to make sure that stocks are managed better, quotas are fairer and that the industry can grow and thrive. 

There are markets emerging all over the world which we can take advantage of through the new Department for International Trade, and I want to see our fisherman in Cornwall putting more fish not just on the plates of Cornish folk, but on the plates of people around the world. 

The process of leaving the EU will be long and will meet hurdles, and I will continue to hold the Government to account so that our fisherman get a good deal and are not sold down the river again.


Scott Mann was elected as Member of Parliament for North Cornwall at the May 2015 General Election.

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  • commented 2017-02-06 10:47:26 +0000
    As often with Leave commentary, I fear this is a misrepresentative, partial and, ultimately naive, set of comments. Where is the analysis of fish stock shortages, solutions put forward and results achieved, or otherwise as yet, via co-ordinated EU action? How is leaving the EU in any way beneficial to those who wish to stop others from catching fish in international waters just off the coast? How do we stop them so doing in the future? What Cornwall funding from the EU runs out in 2020? There are many structural funds: the ERDF is not about to end any time soon. Which of the programmes already agreed is not to be continued or replaced by an updated model? How is it beneficial to anyone in the UK to reduce incomes by 20% to date – and this while we are a full member of the EU – with more to follow if we leave, to have debts on commitments to the EU of £60bn from which we would derive no benefit, and how can you promise your mixed metaphor of not selling fishermen down the river when – contrary to all pre referendum hype – we now appear to wish to leave the single market? How in Heaven’s name is the UK to be a viable trading nation when we have cut off trade with our natural neighbours and have no viable replacement policy even bullet pointed as yet, let alone analysed and cba’d? At bottom, being in the EU is real and works across the board even though – just as with national government policy everywhere, always – there are many areas where improvements are needed. Leaving remains a leap of faith and even now, February 2017, the actual advantages of departing and how we get from here to said nirvana remain as clear as mud. If this was meant to reassure, I fear it achieves the opposite: it just renders with complete clarity why such promises are no more than desperate and empty. I am very happy for anyone to have any faith in any deity – as long as they allow me to believe in none of them in turn – but it really is not a way to run a country and 21st century economy. Despite how they voted recently, most of our MPs know this. I would never show contempt to fishermen: I respect their effort and bravery. I am afraid that you, by contrast, show contempt to those who have different views from your own re the value of being in the EU by this sort of empty rhetoric and such contempt is ill founded and inappropriate.
  • commented 2017-02-03 13:16:39 +0000
    As I have blogged before we owe our fishermen a big debt. They were shafted when we joined the EEC/EU and as this article rightly points out that has a knock on effect to their communities. We like to go on holiday to Cornwall but have also gone some way to destroying those communities that we visit. As for Geldof, his two fingers must have been worth a million Brexit votes. Horrible man.