Home U.K. Lord Owen lifts lid on how Britain sold out its fishermen: 'Complete...

Lord Owen lifts lid on how Britain sold out its fishermen: 'Complete scandal!'

The EU has drafted a post-Brexit trade deal proposal, covering areas such as security, foreign policy and fisheries. The 441-page draft legal text was sent to the 27 EU states on Thursday night, ahead of being presented to the UK next week. The two negotiating teams were due to meet in London for talks, but that has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A joint statement from the UK and EU said they were “exploring alternative ways to continue discussions”, such as video conferencing.

According to BBC journalist Adam Fleming much of the draft will be outright rejected by the UK because of references to EU law and fishing.

France has already demanded Brussels pushes for access to UK fishing waters for 25 years after Brexit in exchange for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Brussels.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently said he is willing to put up a fight over the issue.

Lord Owen lifts lid on how Britain sold out its fishermen: ‘Complete scandal!’ (Image: GETTY)

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UK’s Brexit negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart David Frost (Image: GETTY)

Despite Mr Macron’s hardline stance, former Foreign Secretary and SDP co-founder Lord David Owen told Express.co.uk that British fishermen should not worry, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson will undoubtedly deliver on his promise and give them back full control of their waters, reversing former Prime Minister Edward Heath’s betrayal.

Mr Heath has gone down in history as the man who took Britain into the European Club in the early Seventies.

According to Lord Owen, Mr Heath was so “desperate” to join that he even effectively handed away our fishing grounds as a kind of late entry fee.

He said: “It was a scandal.

“Ted Heath traded in our waters.

“Over the years, people have pointed out that fishing is a small part of our economy.

“That doesn’t matter, there are things you cannot trade off.”

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This, however, is going to change once the transition period ends in December 2020.

The former Foreign Secretary and SDP co-founder said: “Trying to make fishing as part of the FTA – I don’t think that has ever been done before and it is certainly provocative.

“Of course, we will allow many EU countries in UK waters but we will do it like Norway does, as an independent country.

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French President Emmanuel Macron (Image: GETTY)

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British trawlers (Image: GETTY)

“I don’t think Brussels has understood that we are going to be separate now, but we will be able to overcome that.”

He added: “This Government in particular has sworn that it will not do what Ted Heath did, so there is no chance whatsoever we will cave in to Brussels’ demands.”

According to a 2000 report by the Daily Telegraph, Sir Con O’Neill, the diplomat who led British officials in the delegation to negotiate Britain’s membership of the EEC, wrote in a report that Mr Heath would have paid any price to join the bloc in the early Seventies.

Sir Con’s report claims the principle that guided the negotiations leading to Britain’s accession to the EEC, which took place between 1970 and 1972, was “swallow the lot and swallow it now”, as the only thing that mattered was to get in.

One of the things Britain was ready to “swallow” included its fisheries, according to the report.

The diplomat acknowledged mistakes in the fishing talks, as he claimed his negotiating team “failed to foresee the way in which, and the intensity with which, political pressures on the question of fishing limits would develop”.

Mr Heath, then Prime Minister, dismissed the notion that he had betrayed British fishermen as “absurd and insulting”.

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Lord David Owen (Image: GETTY)

Edward Heath signed the Accession Treaty in 1972 (Image: GETTY)

However, Sir Con’s account suggests that British negotiators could have stopped the adoption of a CFP if they had realised how important the issue was.

He wrote: “I have no doubt that we made mistakes.

“The first was in not trying harder than we did to stop the adoption of a common fisheries policy. I believe we could have at least postponed such an agreement; and if we had, it is possible, though questionable, that we could have postponed it indefinitely.

“Almost a year later, we made a major mistake in putting the proposals we put to them on June 1, 1971.

“Why was our handling of the issue of fisheries far more uncertain, and more faulty, than our handling of other issues?

“We did not at the outset realise how acute the question would become and, in part, our retreat from our opening position and the gradual stepping up of our demands was due simply to the mounting political pressure exercised upon us.”

The account only became public 19 years ago as, according to the Daily Telegraph, it was feared its release would cause controversy and might have offended the French and other governments.

Sir David Hannay, the former British ambassador to the UN who edited the account, told the publication: “This was considered to be a reasonably sensitive document and was treated as very restricted.”

Britain formally joined the EEC on January 1, 1973.

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