Saturday, March 10, 2018

A shortage of experts

The Sunday Express once named me as one of the five hundred most influential people in Britain because I was the only person who understood the Common Agricultural Policy. This was wrong on two counts. First, I have never fully understood the CAP: I am always making new discoveries about its complexities.

Second, there are a dozen or so academics in Britain who understand the CAP better than I do from the disciplines of economics (Alan Swinbank, Alan Matthews), law (Michael Cardwell) and political science (Alan Greer). Conspiracy theorists may wish to note that three of them are called Alan: is this a derivation of 'alien'?

Sometimes the media contact me on the assumption that as I know something about the CAP, I must understand the Common Fisheries Policy as well. It is a mystery to me. I know that we have had enough of experts, but the one academic expert on the CFP that I knew has long since retired. I am aware that there are some conflicts about fishing stocks between marine biologists and fisher folk. The best short account I can find of the CFP is here: Senior European Exp**ts

What is clear is that fishermen (they are mostly male) do follow a very dangerous and demanding occupation and live in tight knit communities. They have been vociferous in their criticisms of the CFP and bringing it to an end is one of the core demands of Brexiteers who see it as an affront to British sovereignty and an area where we need to take back control.

The fact that the EU now appears to be using the CFP as a bargaining chip in the negotiation is potentially politically explosive. Continued access for EU fishing vessels to UK territorial waters in accordance with existing fishing rights is being advanced as a trade off against tariffs on agricultural products and, more importantly processed food and drink products to the EU.

But we should remember that this is a negotiation. Each side is going to push its own interests and perspectives, but ultimately there is a mutual interest in finding common ground. Hopefully.

No comments: