Better in or out? England's former fishing hub faces EU dilemma

Sun Nov 29, 2015 6:22am EST
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By Estelle Shirbon

GRIMSBY, England (Reuters) - The European Union is not an abstract concept in Grimsby, an English port where many blame EU fishing quotas for destroying livelihoods, but views on whether Britain should quit the club are more nuanced than the decaying fish docks suggest.

Located on the estuary of the river Humber on England's northeastern coast, Grimsby was home to a fleet of some 600 trawlers in its 1950s heyday, but now there are hardly any left and the town struggles with a legacy of poverty and unemployment.

The decline dates back to the 1970s, when Iceland, concerned by overfishing, closed its cod-rich waters to foreign vessels and the EU began setting quotas to preserve stocks in waters shared by Britain and other member states.

"It killed the town," said Dennis Avery, 73, former skipper of the Ross Tiger, a fishing trawler that is now a museum ship.

He now leads tours of the vessel, his weather-beaten face and tales of shipwreck bearing witness to vanished glory days.

In some ways, Grimsby epitomizes the malaise of many ailing British coastal towns, where a large number of people feel left behind by the globalization of the economy and long for Britain to have more control over its own destiny.

These are places where eurosceptic sentiment runs high. In Britain's general election in May, the anti-EU party UKIP increased its share of the vote in Grimsby to 25 percent, from 6 percent in 2010.

"UKIP are speaking for a lot of people," said Avery, who will vote for Britain to leave the bloc in a referendum promised by Prime Minister David Cameron for before the end of 2017.   Continued...

Fish buyers stand next to boxes of cod during the daily auction at the fish market in Grimsby, Britain November 17, 2015. REUTERS/Phil Noble