Irish fishermen are adamant that the legal text of any Brexit agreement must reflect their demands and that the commitment of the Irish Government to their industry must be spelled out clearly and unequivocally.
That’s the message that Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation CEO, Seán O’Donoghue, will bring to An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar at a fisheries meeting, exclusively focusing on Brexit in Dublin tomorrow afternoon (Thursday).
The meeting will also be attended by An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine, Michael Creed, while the principal Irish producer organisations and processers will provide an industry perspective on the potential challenges which Brexit poses to their livelihood.
“It is imperative that fisheries negotiations are not separated from the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and that there is no dilution of what has already been achieved in the lengthy negotiations. We absolutely must maintain the status quo post-Brexit in retaining access to UK waters as well as quota share. We must have our Hague preferences protected and avoid a situation whereby we are at a cliff-edge at midnight on March 29th, 2019,” said Mr O’Donoghue.
Last month, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation welcomed the approved Brexit guidelines as a “vindication of everything we have done since June 23rd, 2016 and the culmination of an extensive programme of high-end political engagement and lobbying.”
Like its European Fisheries Alliance (EUFA) colleagues, the main Irish producer organisations have, always, recognised the importance of Brexit negotiations for the future of Irish fisheries.
Seán O’Donoghue stated:
“We reacted very swiftly in forming alliances with our European counterparts to establish the European Fisheries Alliance in September 2016. Each member impressed upon its Head of Government how the level of uncertainty and the scale of the challenge facing their fishermen merited special attention, hence our insistence that trade and fisheries be inextricably linked at all times in the negotiations.
“I was particularly pleased that the guidelines adopted by the EU 27 made specific reference to fisheries by stating in paragraph 8.i: ‘In the overall context of the FTA, existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained.’ This is exactly what we had requested in terms of linkage with wider trade negotiations and the maintenance of reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources.
He concluded: “We now stand ready to support the European Commission and the EU27 during the next phase of negotiations on the future framework. Maintaining reciprocal access to waters and resources as agreed in the guidelines should be at the heart of the post-Brexit relationship in fisheries given the historic ties and inextricable links between our countries and industries. I would like to acknowledge the role played by the Irish Government, in particular Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Minister Michael Creed and their officials to this point but now more than ever, we must unite to ensure that the final outcome is wholly consistent with what we have requested. Our €1.15billion Irish fishing industry which sustains more than 14,500 jobs, must remain a top priority for our Government and we cannot concede an inch as these negotiations progress and intensify.”
Note to editor:
The European Fisheries Alliance is a coalition of European fishing fleets directly impacted by Brexit. Members include national organizations from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden. The alliance accounts for over 18,000 fishermen and 3,500 vessels with an annual turnover €20.7 billion.
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