Wednesday, 24 Feb 2021

EU on the rocks: Ireland’s raw deal on fish fuelling resentment as Irexit support surging

Brexit: No deal would cause 'disruption' says Micheál Martin

Ray Bassett was speaking after Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue voiced concerns about the country’s future fishing quotas, with the prospect of EU boats no longer being able to fish in UK waters in the event of a no deal outcome. In such circumstances, fishermen from France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Norway would likely head for the seas around Ireland instead, jeopardising the livelihoods of local fishing businesses.

Mr Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, told “The fisheries issue in the Brexit talks has focused interest in Ireland on how badly the country is treated under the current Common Fisheries Policy.

“This is very uncomfortable for the Government and the pro EU lobby.

“Other countries catch hundreds of millions of euros worth of fish in Irish waters and subsequent processing can more than double the value of that catch.

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“The possibility, or more likely the probability that Ireland’s meagre fish ration in its own waters may even be further reduced to cater for French, Spanish and Dutch fishing interests displaced by Brexit, is causing consternation.”

Such circumstances would trigger demands in Ireland for the Common Fisheries Policy to be scrapped, putting Taoiseach Micheal Martin in an awkward position politically.

Mr Bassett added: “It again shows how short sighted Ireland’s policy was of throwing its lot in with the EU during Brexit.

“It also comes at a time when the Department of Finance in Dublin has confirmed that Ireland’s net contribution to the EU budget in 2020 will be €1.5bn, up from €1bn last year, and this does not take into account Ireland’s pending large contribution to the EU COVID Fund.”

Fishing was far from the only issue where Ireland appeared to be losing out, Mr Barrett said.

He explained: “The continued delay in starting a COVID vaccine programme is also reflecting badly on the country’s relationship with the EU.

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“Ireland, unlike France or Germany, made no purchases of vaccines itself, relying entirely on Brussels to provide supplies.

“This has led to the country getting a very small initial allocation.

“There is growing disenchantment with Brussels in the Irish public and the Irish Freedom Party which campaigns for an Irexit is reporting a strong surge in new memberships.

“The next few years will be very interesting in Irish politics and its relationship with Brussels.

“The balance of advantage in Ireland’s membership of the EU is certainly shifting in a negative direction.”

Mr McConalogue said: “It’s really important as we come towards what we hope will be a positive outcome that there is recognition there from the British government that, in return, there are many positive aspects of being part of the free trade market, that that needs to work both ways, in particular in relation to reciprocal access to waters and also maintenance of quota share.

“Any reduction in our fish quota we want to avoid at all costs.

“That’s why the attachment of the fish negotiations to other aspects of the free trade agreement (FTA) is really important.”

“There’s a lot of stake and we need level heads.”

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