If the referendum on leaving the European Union was to be run again, would you vote the same way?
Two of our regional MEPs who think that the fuller implications of leaving the EU are now just being seriously aired, spoke to Ed Asquith at their offices in the Strasbourg-based parliament ...
Just over a year ago, Scarborough voted by 62% to quit the European Union, Ryedale voted by 55% and the East Riding of Yorkshire saw 60% vote to
But some polls are now indicating that the vote would now go the other way, with more than half the respondents saying they would vote Remain, and there is a core issue to be resolved about whether the result was only advisory or was legally-binding.
We asked two of the six MEPs who represent the entire region of Yorkshire and the Humber – Euro MPs Richard Corbett (Labour, former adviser to a president of the European Council, lives Shipley) and John Procter (Conservative, former Leeds councillor, lives Wetherby) – separately in their offices at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to assess the fate of farming, fishing, tourism, immigration and what they think will happen by March 2019 when ... or if, the UK leaves, which they question will actually happen.
This is the first half of a two-part look at the key issues:
What will happen to areas such as Whitby, Bridlington and Scarborough in terms of its fishing future under Brexit?
Boats from EU nations catch 10,000 tonnes of fish in six to 12 miles of the UK coast each year, plus 700,000 tonnes taken by EU vessels from wider UK waters. But UK vessels access waters around countries such as Spain and Portugal.
The commercial fishing industry in our area has been diminished to the extent of 35 commercial fishing vessels in Scarborough (eight over 10 metres and 27 under 10 metres) and serving the shellfish demand, although there are about 300 visits from prawn and scallop boats a year. Scarborough still has fish processing on West Pier but much of the catch is auctioned and sold before the catch is landed, according to a borough council report. Around 150 jobs are still based on commercial fishing, including fishermen, maintenance and fish processing but leisure craft demand is growing.
How do the Euro MPs see it?
Mr Corbett: “There was overfishing, we have to agree. Stocks are beginning to grow again. We could reserve 200 miles just for our fish industry but the problem then would be retaliation in the waters of other countries. And 80% of our fish caught is for export, much of it destined for the EU, and we fish outside our own waters (20% of British-caught fish is from the waters of other states), he said.
“The tariffs for processed fish being sent to other EU countries post-Brexit would be high, shellfish would have to be certified by the other governments as safe, there would be the need for a whole new regulatory framework. We would have to follow rules set by the EU. A lot of details would be required.”
He said it was important that UK fish processing done was not endangered as tariffs on salmon, mackerel and processed fish could make our exports too expensive. Areas further south such as Grimsby process most of the UK’s seafood, much of it exported to Europe and dependent on mainly European workers for filleting. Post-Brexit border controls, fall in the exchange rate and delays at ports as UK products are checked, would endanger this huge trade, he said.
There is concern until matters are clarified that international law and historic fishing rights under the 1964 London Fisheries Convention, allows 32 areas around Britain to be fished by other countries. Mr Procter said: “The issue of territorial waters is important. I think a clear signal is necessary but where it will end up, no-one knows. We could choose as a county not to let anyone into our territorial waters but we want to get as fair a deal as possible on fishing, as well as farming and industry.”
Fishing has become an even bigger issue after Michael Gove, the government’s Environment Secretary, said that leaving the EU would benefit the UK fisheries industry, enabling it to work out catch quotas, make fishing more sustainable, and create an exclusion zone of 200 miles. In quitting the EU Common Fisheries Policy, there could be retaliation from other fishing fleets around Europe, especially as the UK trawls other country’s waters.
What do other European MEPs think of us over Brexit?
Richard Corbett (Lab) said: “The union goes on in terms of issues to resolve but there is a sadness at Britain’s leaving and perplexity as to why and astonishment at the chaos and confusion of the government’s position.”
He added that MEPs were carrying on with normal business ... including energy labels for home appliances, EU-Cuba agreements, Turkey membership, refugees in Syria and Italy, copyright law, fighting fraud, compensation for Spanish coal miners, luring Ukraine to the EU, the availability of books for blind people, encouraging culture and EU citizenship, debating failures in the fight against terror, and dozens more shared issues. He said that the Brexit referendum was advisory only and that an extra, final ratifying referendum would be “sensible”.
John Procter (Con) said: “The overall direction of the European Parliament is not impacted at all. From non-UK MEPs there is no conversation.
“ They feel that Britain has simply made a choice. There is a huge amount of work to do. The main negotiating position won’t change.
“There will be a bit of a change, a nuance, but we have a really strong negotiating team, reinforced from a civil service point of view” which he said was well-led.
He said that if Italy or France were also to hold a referendum, they could be in a similar situation.
What will be the impact on agriculture?
There is growing concern that the UK will not be able to shore up farmers with grants, that food exports could face EU levies and that EU workers would be discouraged from working in the UK or would choose to work in other countries - when 35% of labourers come from Europe.
The UK only has an estimated five days of food stocks, with a third of produce coming from Europe, and fears that fruit, vegetables, meat and fish could face EU-imposed import tariffs post-Brexit, according to academic researchers.
Mr Corbett said: “There are concern over tariffs and that French support for its farmers would create tariffs on British farm produce being exported.
He said there could be disputes over such matters as the levels of hormones in meat depending on what animals have been fed on and any country in the EU post-Brexit could say that it does not want it. The devil is in the detail and how large that is.”
Mr Procter offered a cooler perspective, not accepting the doomsday scenario of tariffs, quotas and retaliation between markets that both benefit from each other’s produce and custom.
He said: “Until 2020 there will be subsidies for British farmers but it is not going to happen that we would sever links.”
What kind of Brexit will be resolved in the countdown to March 2019 under the terms of Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon?
Mr Corbett said: “I think some people thought that the Leave vote would come at no cost. People are now seeing that it could be damaging for the economy.
“Every racist voted to leave although of course not everyone who voted to leave was racist.”
Referring to the issues of freedom of movement and refugees from areas such as Syria, he said: “There are three points. Firstly, most migrants to Britain come from outside the EU. Secondly, free movement can’t be conditional; people come to work and be self-sufficient. Thirdly, what about the many Brits living in other EU countries?”
Mr Procter said: “It should be seen like a divorce settlement, you have to discuss it. I would favour a softer Brexit, it’s about getting the best possible position with tariff-free access but the EU may have different views regarding the idea of tariffs.”
He added: “Some might like to see a Common Market instead.”
He was very concerned at the idea of separating too far from the EU (even though he admitted that his wife voted to Leave while he voted to Remain): “There will be major issues if we leave.
“It will put us into unknown territory.”
What’s your opinion on leaving the European Union?
Do you stand by your original vote to Leave or Remain, and what are your top three concerns? Email us with the label Brexit, to firstname.lastname@example.org More from Euro MPs Richard Corbett and John Procter next week in our Q&A. You can also contact Richard Corbett and John Procter and give your views by email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org