Friday, 17 April 2009


The French fishermen have briefly put the Common Fisheries Policy back in the news.

No amendment at Second Reading of any European Communities (Amendment) Bill ever rejects that Bill because of its failure to restore the United Kingdom's historic fishing rights (two hundred miles or to the median line) in accordance with international law, nor, for that matter, because it transfers yet further legislative power to a body which meets in secret and publishes no Official Report.

In the course of any such Bill's passage, no amendment would ever either prevent that Bill from coming into effect prior to that restoration, or prevent such effect prior to that opening up, or require British Ministers to absent themselves from the Council (and thus bring it to a standstill) while that secrecy is maintained.

Why not?

How could anyone in any of the Conservative, Liberal and Labour traditions be seen to vote against the opening up of the Council of Ministers? The Tories now at least affect to be concerned about the CFP, as some of them genuinely are and long have been. Year on year between 1979 and 1997, every Labour MP voted against it.

The Lib Dems would have to explain why every seat in Cornwall, most seats in the far North of Scotland, and others in between from North Norfolk via Berwick-upon-Tweed and North-East Fife, should continue to return them if they had failed to vote to save Britain's fishing industry. The SNP would have to explain why the voters of North-East Fife and the far North of Scotland should in that case vote for it instead.

You have to pick your fights. These ones are winnable. Indeed, properly organised in both the House and the media, they are practically unloseable.

Yet the amendments never appear.

And until there are MPs independent of the current machines, who can shame those who are not yet on these and so many other issues, they never will.

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