Deal needs approval by majority of the bloc’s 705 MEPs before it can become law
The post-Brexit fisheries deal “pleases no one”, an Irish MEP has claimed.
“The agreement actually pleases no one, despite the UK government’s claims that it has taken back control,” Green MEP Grace O’Sullivan told the European Parliament’s fisheries committee yesterday. “The UK fishing industry was sold a lie and now we will all suffer from this.”
The EU and UK agreed a last-minute trade deal on Christmas Eve, including a 25pc cut in the value of EU stocks in UK waters from mid-2026.
But MEPs are worried the UK will withdraw access for EU fishermen beyond 25pc once the five-and-a-half year phase-in period is up.
The head of the Parliament’s fisheries committee, French MEP Pierre Karleskind, questioned the UK’s “good faith” in sticking to the deal. “We’ve all had some doubts on the durability and sustainability of this good faith,” Mr Karleskind said.
The Irish Fish Producers Association (IFPO) is also concerned that UK authorities are using Brexit to reignite a row over Rockall.
Last week, Scottish authorities boarded an Irish vessel fishing in waters off the uninhabitable rock in the north-east Atlantic.
“They are, let’s say, because of Brexit, going to try and enforce it going forward,” the IFPO’s chief executive officer, John Ward, told the Irish Independent. “It’s a problem for Ireland and it’s a problem for the EU."
A European Commission official said the trade deal ensures “stable” access for EU fishing vessels, even after 2026, and that the bloc can take measures to retaliate if this is not the case.
Charlina Vitcheva, the Commission’s director-general for fisheries, said the UK side had “escalated unmanageable expectations” that had contaminated the talks.
“The Brits were struggling very hard to have the possibility to deny access [to EU vessels],” she said yesterday. “And if they decide to, we are capable, with compensatory measures, to deter this possibility.”
Although the deal is being applied provisionally until February 28, it needs approval by a majority of the bloc’s 705 MEPs before it can become law.
Parliamentary committees began their scrutiny of the deal this week, and are looking at a possible vote in March. This means they would have to secure an extension to the provisional application.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael senator Seán Kyne has warned that smaller Irish ports will suffer because they’re no longer allowed to land UK catches under the trade deal.
As a non-EU country, UK trawlers can now only land catches at Ireland's two international ports – Killybegs in Donegal and Castletownbere in Cork – but there are more than 30 small ports around the country that landed fish up to now.
“These new restrictions regarding the landing of catches by UK trawlers are making the Brexit situation even more challenging for Irish coastal communities, particularly those involved in seafood processing,” Mr Kyne said in a statement.
“Every effort needs to be made to change this rule.”