Richard North, 11/10/2004  

There are times when one could get very angry, not least with Mr Patten, who is spouting off in today’s Independent, slamming Howard’s plans for a negotiated withdrawal from EU social legislation and the common fisheries policy.

Says the ignorant Mr Patten, "If you decide to repatriate fish policy are you going to depend on our fish being taught to swim only in our territorial waters? Is this the real world?" Considering that this man is external affairs commissioner with, presumably, a wide-ranging knowledge of world affairs, one can only ask which world he lives in.

If he steps for one moment outside his narrow, claustrophobic world of the European Union and looks at a map, he will see that four of the major fishing nations adjoining the UK – Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes – are actually not in the EU. Yet we manage to cooperate with these nations, not because they are in the CFP - we have bilateral and multilateral agreements with them.

Furthermore, in the real world, the management of straddling stocks, as they are called, is an international problem and, while the Europhiles are fond of saying that fish do not respect national boundaries, that applies as much to the boundaries between EU member states and other nations as it does between EU member states.

Therefore, this issue needs to be dealt with on a much wider scale than the narrowly defined EU area, and indeed it has been. In 2001, the United Nations brokered a world-wide agreement implementing the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), with the agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (in force as from 11 December 2001). An overview can be found on the UN website and the text of the agreement is also available.

Patten’s trite response, therefore, does not reflect the views of a man of the world, as he would have us believe, but the narrow blinkered world of the little European. Yet this is the man of whom we said in this Blog that he was "intelligent". It looks as if we need to revise that opinion. As for Patten, he needs to get out more.

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