The EU’s draft negotiating blueprint for Brexit trade talks has been welcomed by the Killybegs Fisheries Organisation (KFO), which sees it as offering tangible hope to the Irish industry after a bruising, exhausting period of negotiation.
KFO chief executive Seán O’Donoghue sounded a note of caution stating that while Michel Barnier had endorsed the European Fisheries Alliance position which the KFO forms an intrinsic part of, there is a long way to go and the UK Government hasn’t shown itself a model of consistency in what are unprecedented discussions.
He reiterated his assertion that the one industry which is completely and uniquely exposed to anything other than an orderly transition, is the Irish fisheries sector.
‘The text of the blueprint states: the objective of the provisions on fisheries should be to uphold Union fishing activities. In particular, it should aim to avoid economic dislocation for Union fishermen that have traditionally fished in the United Kingdom waters. To reach this objective, the provisions on fisheries should build on existing reciprocal access conditions, quota shares and the traditional activity of the Union fleet, Seán O’Donoghue quoted.
The terms on access to waters and quota shares shall guide the conditions set out in regard of other aspects of the economic part of the envisaged partnership, in particular of access conditions under the free trade area as provided for in Point B of Section 2 of this Part.
‘Mr Barnier stated clearly today and I quote, agreement on fisheries will be intrinsically linked to the trade agreement. That is what we have implored from the get-go. As long as our negotiators stick tight to this position, there remains light at the end of the tunnel,’ he said
‘Any other outcome is too ghastly to countenance and the EU27 must now remain united and strong to retain that crucial linkage between fisheries and trade.’
Seán O’Donoghue commented that the Irish seafood industry was last year worth €1.25 billion, employing more than 14,300 people with this economic footprint predominantly in rural, coastal locations.
‘A no-deal Brexit would be the death knell for many coastal fishing communities, with projected job losses of between 30% and 40% in the Irish industry,’ he said, adding that currently, almost a third of Irish catch is caught in UK waters mostly notably 60% of mackerel and 40% of nephrops.