Monday, February 09, 2009

Race to the bottom

Irish fishermen are unhappy with the EU, according to the Irish Times, which is hardly surprising as they have fared almost as badly from the CFP as British fishermen.

What is really interesting though is the response from the Irish fisheries minister, Tony Killeen, which demonstrates quite how seriously the EU erodes national powers.

First though, the issue which is causing the ire of the fishermen is the EU's days-at-sea rule controlling the catches of the whitefish fleet which, it is claimed, unfairly penalise those who have fished less over the last decade.

The days at sea scheme, which rations the days fishermen are allowed to leave port, is being applied on the basis of recent track record, as a "conservation measure". But the problem is that those fishermen who co-operated with earlier conservation schemes and thereby fished less are now being awarded fewer days than those who did not.

At the moment, the scheme is being applied on a three-month trial basis along a limited section of the coast, principally affecting Donegal fishermen, and they are looking to the fisheries minister for relief from what is clearly an unfair anomaly.

And this is what makes Killeen's reaction interesting. He had discussions with the fishing federation at the weekend, when his response not to offer any amelioration but simply to argue that it could have been worse.

But for the government's action, he said, the scheme could have applied to the whole of the Celtic Sea. "The reality of EU fisheries councils is that you don't get everything you want. If we had refused to co-operate, this measure would have been applied further around the coastline," Mr Killeen said.

That's the reality of membership of the EU. You accept something you don't want, and would not have done if you were still an independent nation, on the basis that, if you do not accept it, you get something considerably worse.

Then, in the scheme of things, the minister parades this as a "victory" and expects a pat on the back. That is now how the system works.