Fishing FURY: Ireland warns of ‘skirmishes at sea’ with UK boats – ‘moral right’ to waters
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The rows could break out as Irish, Dutch, Belgian and French vessels lose access to the UK’s fishing grounds if the transition period expires without an agreement in place. Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, said: “It’s not just Ireland that is affected by the British withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy though, as I believe the French fleet will up the ante.
“You could have flashpoints everywhere from Rockall to the North Sea to the Celtic Sea and English Channel, with the British Navy, the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, the Dutch, French and Belgian navies out at sea, and our Naval Service having an enormous area to control.”
Meanwhile founding editor of the fishing industry’s monthly The Skipper publication Arthur Reynolds has argued Ireland should be given greater access to its own waters as part of the Brexit negotiations and there should be a review of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Mr Reynolds said: “Ireland’s moral right to greater access to its own waters must be central to any Brexit negotiations.
“Germany didn’t have to open up access to Ruhr coalfields. France didn’t have to open up access to its vineyards.
“Ireland and Denmark were the only two member states with a surplus of fish when the CFP was drawn up.”
Fisheries biologist Dr Peter Tyndall of the National Fishermen’s Development Group further argued: “So, if Britain wants to play hardball, then the quotas given to the British-registered Spanish vessels for stocks off the Irish west coast should revert to Ireland.”
Brussels is demanding the same levels of access for its own vessels to Britain’s fishing grounds.
However, Boris Johnson insists Britain must be able to set the rules on foreign fishing boats access UK waters after December 31.
The Prime Minister has told the European Union the final agreement must secure a “huge difference from the status quo” for British fishermen.
The relationship between European and British trawlermen have already showed signs of breaking down in recent years.
Two years ago, French and English boats clashed in a dispute over scallop grounds in the English Channel.
More recently Scottish fishermen have reported a number of episodes where they believe EU vessels are attempting to hold on to traditional grounds.
Last month a German-registered Spanish gillnetter was filmed allegedly trying to damage the properly of a Scottish vessel off the Shetland’s western coast.
A naval patrol ship eventually detained the boat near Rockall for separate alleged breaches of EU fisheries rules.
The Irish fishing industry is concerned it would lose a huge chunk of its profits if British waters are shut to European vessels.
EU boats could soon make their way into Irish waters to make up for their lost access to the UK’s grounds, experts have claimed.
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There have been reports of Spanish gill netters who would never normally fish in the area already arriving off the south-west coast of Ireland.
An industry insider said: “It is as if some track records are being laid down by the Spanish, who have always been much better at this than Ireland.”
A future fisheries deal is one of two outstanding issues still be to decided in the post-Brexit trade talks.
British negotiators are concerned Brussels is deliberately stalling talks on a free-trade agreement by avoiding the difficult discussions over future access to the UK’s fishing grounds.
David Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy, had hoped to begin talks over potential new fishing opportunities for after when the transition period expires at the end of the year.
He wants to start technical discussions on future stocks and quota shares.
But counterpart Michel Barnier has not moved away from reaffirming his opening gambit – status quo access to Britain’s territory waters for European trawlermen.
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A UK source said: “The EU is not really putting enough meat on the table for us to have that discussion and we’re both still pretty much on our points of principle.”
Recent negotiations between EU and UK officials have failed to break the deadlock.
European sources describe the wrangling over to access to waters as “tactical” but still expect a deal to be struck before the end of the process.
Mr Barnier has warned the final free-trade agreement hinges on the completion of a “balanced and sustainable” fisheries pact between the two sides.
But the EU’s most influential costal nations have prevented from softening his opening position in order to broker a compromise.
France has claimed it would prefer a no-deal outcome than sign up to a pact that restricts historic access to Britain’s fishing grounds for its trawlermen.
Newly appointed European affairs minister Clement Beaune yesterday said: “We will not accept a deal at any price – better no deal at all than a bad deal.
“Let’s not kid ourselves. If there is no deal, it will be a difficult issue. We’ll have to organise a response for sectors like fisheries, and support our fishermen financially.”
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