With the EU referendum on everyone’s lips, we thought we’d look at a few balanced views of how an exit from the EU (Brexit) would affect the maritime industry – and in particular, those who work in it.
It’s been an interesting read to see both sides of the debate from the fishing communities throughout the UK.
The BBC ran an article exploring whether Scotland’s fisherman would be better in or out of the EU, and the opinion was clear from the local fishing industry that an exit was the wise choice: “I have not met a local fisherman yet who would not pack his bags and leave the EU.”
Scotland’s town of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire is Europe’s largest white fish port, so interest is undeniably high and emotional. Positions and views differ vastly. The Scottish government feels that EU membership is important to support employment and the economy (seafood is only topped by whiskey in their food and drink exports). Local fishermen vehemently disagree and would prefer to leave the micromanagement and choking regulations set by the EU, which places restrictions on seasonal fishing, size of fish and fishing gear, and causes many problems for smaller businesses.
The European Parliament Fisheries Committee Vice Chairman, Jaroslaw Walesa, has commented that,”Brexit means that Scottish fishermen will be cut off from the traditional fishing grounds […] and will not be able to benefit from EMFF – the fund for the EU’s maritime and fisheries […], which helps fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing, supports coastal communities, finances projects that create new jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts.”
Mr Walesea also states that the CFP (the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy) supports more sustainable stocks however opinions on the CFP aren’t as favourable elsewhere in the country where it has been blamed for the demise of the local fishing industries.
In Grimsby, which was the fishing capital of the world a century ago and now experiencing some of the worst unemployment in the country, fishermen blame the E.U for its decline, saying that the CFP opened up their waters to other member states and took control away from the locals. They feel that an exit from the EU would allow their town to rebuild and flourish again.
Some, however, remember the situation differently, claiming that the Cod Wars (disputes with Iceland) is what led to the decline in Grimsby.
Others in the industry feel that remaining in the EU is necessary in order to manage the complex state of the seas, which would ensure that member states work together to ride the difficulties that come from uncontrollable issues such as migrating fish and climate change.
As an international organisation concerned with the rights of seafarers, we’re interested to know more about how Brexit would impact seafarers from all over the world, as well as those in the UK, who could find themselves suddenly unemployed.
Zodiac Maritime says: “EU citizens from many countries work in the shipping industry in the UK and if the UK elects to leave, these individuals will overnight find their legal entitlement to remain in question.”
How many are investigating the impact of Brexit on seafarers from outside of the UK?
We’re also keen to know more about how working conditions and workers’ rights could be affected. The EU has played an important role in protecting working people from exploitation and discrimination, and improving wages, equality, time off and health & safety. Will this remain or worsen as a consequence of an exit? What are the risks to local seafarers?
The divide in opinion is definitely a clear one – although the outcomes aren’t so cut and dry.
Local fishers want to regain control of their waters to revive their once prosperous fishing industry and feel they would have a chance to do this with an exit. Many local governments and large ship owners see the trade benefits of remaining, although many equally see that the regulations are not relevant to the UK and that there is corruption within the walls of the EU.
All we do know for certain is that there is uncertainty – on both sides of the camp, and we’ll be watching as the arguments, facts and research builds over the coming days.