Southern Irish fishermen face exclusion from North waters under Brexit. RollingNews.ie photo
By Evan Short
Iceland and Britain went to “war” in the early 1970s over the former’s effort to prevent British trawlers fishing for cod in waters that it claimed as sovereign.
Now the British government is moving to proclaim waters around Britain – and Northern Ireland – as sovereign, this in the context of Brexit.
Consequently, fishing boats operating from the 26 counties are to be banned from British and northern waters for the first time in over fifty years as the British government steps up its Brexit strategy.
In a move that is expected to have a major impact on north/south trade, British environment minister Michael Gove announced plans to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention, a treaty that allows trawlers from the Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to fish within twelve and six miles of the UK coastline.
And that could lead to retaliation from Dublin.
Currently, the fishing fleet in Kilkeel, County Down, fishes south of Carlingford Lough and it is expected this will be restricted should a fishing trade war break out.
Irish fisheries minister, Michael Creed, described the move as “unhelpful.”
He said: “Today's announcement by the UK government is unwelcome and unhelpful. It is a part of Brexit and will be considered by the EU 27 member states and the Barnier team when the negotiations commence.
“The announcement will have no immediate effect as the withdrawal process from the convention will take two years and will form part of the Brexit negotiations.”
The convention grants rights to neighboring countries to fish in each other's 6 to 12 mile fishing zones based on historic fishing activity.
The Irish fishing fleet has access to parts of the UK 6-12 mile zone, as has the UK fleet to parts of the Irish zone.
These access rights were incorporated into the EU Common Fisheries Policy when Ireland and the UK joined the EU in 1973.
Added Minister Creed: “The threats posed by Brexit to the Irish fishing industry was discussed last Thursday with the Irish industry at a session of the SeaFest Conference in Galway.
“Brexit poses very serious challenges to the seafood sector and this announcement will form part of the negotiations.”
Sinn Féin has expressed their concerns at the move, with Martin Ferris TD accusing the British government of “bullying.”
Said Ferris: “It is imperative that Irish fishermen are not made the meat in the sandwich between the EU and Britain. It is clear that the British side are willing to gamble on a hard Brexit and to hell with the repercussions.
“Our government needs to make absolutely clear to the EU negotiating team how important our fisheries are. It is certain that the French and others will do everything to protect their industry and we can be no different.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be bullied on this matter. The reality is, and the British are well aware, that their fish stocks are shared with others, including Ireland. Fish do not recognize nor respect national boundaries and it is in all our interests to get the best deal possible.
“Minister Creed needs to come before the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food, and the Marine this week and outline the measures he and his government are taking to protect the livelihoods of Irish fishermen.”
But the pro-Brexit DUP have welcomed the move, with Ian Paisley Jr. using social media to say, “Unwelcome for him (Michael Creed TD) and the ROI fishing fleet. We need to build our industry not protect his!”