Clause 2 — Addition to list of treaties
Orders of the Day
Angus Robertson (Parliamentary Leader (Westminster Group); Moray, Scottish National Party)
I was trying to make a point about the fisheries industries in neighbouring countries. Why in the past 10 to 15 years, during which extraordinary pain has been felt among the fishing fleets of the United Kingdom, have we seen an increase in the power and tonnage of the fishing fleets of those other countries? We are told that fish do not respect borders. That is very interesting—of course they do not. Why, then, are the fisheries policies of those neighbouring countries infinitely more successful than those within the European Union?
In preparing for this debate, I looked at some interesting correspondence that I received a few short years ago from the Prime Minister of the Faroes. He wrote:
"You are certainly correct in your assessment of the Faroese position on membership of the EU in relation to the Common Fisheries Policy. Indeed fisheries are of such overwhelming importance to our entire nation that membership of the European Union was unanimously rejected by the Faroese Parliament in 1974, and has not been on the political agenda since."
If the people of Norway, Iceland and the Faroes wanted to join the European Union, I would like the idea that they could. However, unfortunately the UK Government have signed up to a treaty enshrining fisheries as an exclusive competence, and that will make it impossible for those neighbouring nations ever to join. That is a travesty.
Let us consider how the issue has progressed. I would like to point out certain important realities for the record. The Scottish National party's position on this point, and others, has been consistent through the whole process of first the draft constitution and now the treaty. My friend Professor Sir Neil MacCormick, former MEP, was the only democratically elected member on the Convention that drew up the constitution. He raised the problems with the draft as it was emerging. The problems were reiterated in the Standing Committee on the Convention on the Future of Europe debates that brought together Members from the House of Commons and those from the other place. They were raised repeatedly. They were raised in the European Scrutiny Committee and in meetings that my right hon. Friend Mr. Salmond and I had with the then Foreign Secretary, Mr. Straw.
The UK Government have known that the issue is a red-line one for the Scottish Government. Despite that, they have ignored it from day one. The consequences are that the treaty is unacceptable. As a pro-European, I could live with 95 per cent. of the treaty as it stands. However, because this issue has been pointed out from day one and because the UK Government could have sought an amendment but did nothing, the treaty has been made completely and utterly unacceptable.