“A poor man’s Trojan horse” – Irish fishing body unfazed by UK fisheries bill

The United Kingdom's new fisheries bill, released 29 January in readiness for the country’s withdrawal from the European Union, will become redundant once broader trade negotiations between the two parties get underway, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) said.

In a statement, KFO CEO Seán O’Donoghue said the new bill would have catastrophic ramifications for the Irish fishing industry, as it proposes denying the country’s fishermen automatic access to U.K. waters, but he stressed that the reality is that it is “a poor man’s Trojan horse” in the greater scheme of E.U./U.K. negotiations.

Furthermore, the KFO remains optimistic that the linkage between trade and fisheries as set out in the E.U.’s political declaration will be not merely endorsed but strengthened, he said.

“I cannot over-emphasize how important it is that the work invested in the political declaration by Michel Barnier, Phil Hogan, and others is fully supported by the EU27. This U.K. bill is little more than posturing and its timing is hardly a surprise, but the real negotiations are entering an absolutely crucial phase,” O’Donoghue said.

He added that the bill will not last long once withdrawal takes place.

“The U.K. bill will be null and void once the EU27 remain united and retain the linkage between fisheries and trade. The political declaration by the E.U. and U.K. on the next round of Brexit negotiations sets 1 July as the target date for agreeing to a new fisheries deal between the EU and U.K.,” O’Donoghue said. “We have done and will continue to do everything in our power to fight for the future viability of Irish fisheries and that means being a part of overall trade negotiations. The stakes have never been higher and we will not be found wanting in fighting our corner and not allowing Brexit be the death-knell for our proud industry.”

O’Donoghue and the KFO has consistently asserted that a no-deal Brexit would have a catastrophic effect on many coastal fishing communities, with projected job losses of between 30 percent and 40 percent in the Irish industry. Currently, almost one-third of the Irish catch is caught in U.K. waters.

Ireland’s seafood industry was valued at EUR 1.25 billion (USD 1.4 billion) last year, providing employment for more than 14,300 people.

The introduction of the Fisheries Bill delivers a legal guarantee the United Kingdom will leave the E.U. Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) at the end of the transition period, in December 2020. It also ends current automatic rights for E.U. vessels to fish in U.K. waters. To continue, they will require licenses, and to abide by the country’s rules.  

Photo courtesy of Gabriela Insuratelu/Shutterstock 


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