Fishing industry’s worries become focus for British doubts

Fishing industry’s worries become focus for British doubts on European Union
By Frederick Studemann
Published: March 12 2005 02:00 | Last updated: March 12 2005 02:00

On a clear day the Tiger Hill Cafe in Fraserburgh offersa magnificent view of the North Sea – the livelihood of many of the establishment’s patrons.

With low unemployment, rising house prices and the local harbour and fish processing businesses doing well, the land-based prospects of the town in north-east Scotland appear in good shape. But Morag Ritchie offers a gloomier forecast. The wife of a local fisherman and mother of seven fears for the future of the industry that sustains her family and most of Fraserburgh’s 14,000 inhabitants. And the culprit is clear: the European Union and its Common Fisheries Policy.

She and fellow “Cod Campaigners”, a female protest group, blame the CFP for harming the interests of UK fishermen, failing to conserve stocks, forcing the break-up of ships and surrendering national waters to foreign fleets.

“We’ve given everything up – the fishing, the oil. Old folk [in town] say, ‘Why did I fight in the war to end up with this European dictatorship?’ ” she says.

The CFP offers a neat example of the often confusing nature of British scepticism about Europe. As well as affecting the heart of an island nation’s seafaring identity, it encapsulates many of the fears and pre- judices Britons feel about the EU. These range from irritations with apparent over-regulation to suspicions that Britain consistently loses out to other EU member states.

The Conservative party, the main opposition to the ruling Labour party of the prime minister, Tony Blair, had hoped to tap euroscepticism for the general elections expected in May.

So far, however, the issue has been overshadowed by others. But such scepticism and confusion will be at the heart of next year’s referendum in the UK on the EU’s

Constitutional Treaty, which opinion polls currently show is opposed by the majority of Britons.

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