Tuesday 24 April 2018

Ireland and EU allies vow to fight for fishing industry as UK pulls the plug on agreement

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
John Downing

John Downing

Marine Minister Michael Creed has said Ireland will use alliances with other EU member states to offset "very bad effects" from Britain opting out of a long-standing fisheries convention.

The minister, who combines responsibility for food and farming with fisheries, said the British decision to withdraw the UK from the London Fisheries Convention was "unwelcome and unhelpful".

He said 60pc of Irish fishermen's most lucrative mackerel catch, and 40pc of their second most valuable stock of prawns, came from these waters.

The British move means trawlers from Ireland will be banned from fishing within 12 nautical miles of the UK coastline.

The UK government will trigger within two years its withdrawal from the 1964 London Fisheries Convention, which pre-dates EU membership for both nations in 1973.

Mr Creed said the announcement was "part of Brexit" and it would be considered by the EU's 27 nations and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier when trade negotiations started.

He said the move was expected and Ireland had worked on making alliances with France, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden, and the issue would be faced as part of the overall Brexit trade talks.

"We are anxious to have these negotiations in the broadest possible context to get the best possible outcome. But these talks will be long and arduous," the minister added.

Read More: 'If this full British withdrawal goes ahead, it could wipe out the Irish fishing industry'

He said the announcement would have no immediate effect as the withdrawal process took two years and would form part of the Brexit negotiations.

He said both the Irish Government and the fisheries industry had foreseen this change and were preparing to offset its effects.

The convention allows vessels from Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of the British coast. It dovetails with the EU common fisheries policy which gives all EU member states access between 12 and 200 nautical miles of the UK and others' coasts and also sets quotas for how much fish can be caught.

Fianna Fáil fisheries spokesman Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher said the move was deeply disappointing. "While I am not overly surprised by this decision in itself, I am surprised at its announcement at such an early stage in the process. The UK government is seeking to negotiate fisheries in isolation but the Irish Government must insist it is part of the overall trade negotiations," Mr Gallagher told the Irish Independent.

"It must be remembered that the UK exports 62pc of its fish catch to the remaining 27 member states, so the trade element is a crucial component of negotiations on fisheries."

British ministers claimed the move would help take back control of fishing access to UK waters, as it will no longer be bound by existing access agreements, and will enable the country to become fully responsible for fisheries management.

UK vessels will also lose the right to fish in the waters six to 12 nautical miles offshore of the other countries.

British environment secretary Michael Gove said that leaving the London Fisheries Convention was an important moment as Britain took back control of fishing policy.

"It means for the first time in more than 50 years, we will be able to decide who can access our waters," Mr Gove said.

"This is an historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union - one which leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the UK."

The UK fishing industry comprised 6,000 vessels in 2015, landing 708,000 tonnes of fish worth £775m (€893m). Some 10,000 tonnes of fish were caught by other countries under the rules.

Irish Independent

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