Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has warned of the devastating consequences a no-deal Brexit could have for the Irish fishing industry.
The Ireland South MEP, who sits on the EU Fisheries Committee, said the Irish Government had a duty to use their influence in Europe to protect Irish waters.
She was speaking as British Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled her draft withdrawal agreement.
“Two of Ireland’s biggest fisheries, mackerel and prawns, are hugely dependent on continued historical access for Irish fishers to waters under British jurisdiction,” she said.
“The importance of maintaining mutually beneficial reciprocal access between Ireland and Britain to waters and resources cannot be stressed enough.
“If the British government decides to ‘take back’ its waters as part of Brexit without a fishing agreement it will be catastrophic for Irish fishers and their communities, not just just in terms of loss of access but also due to the potential displacement of EU fleets into Irish waters.
“Ireland´s fishing fleet has only had historic access to two fishing grounds; British waters and Ireland’s own fishing grounds and there are very reasonable fears that with Brexit the Irish fishing sector will lose up to 50% of its access to fishing grounds, with no possibility of mitigation by moving to other fishing grounds.
“This is contrary to how it will affect other EU Member States, as they have track records in Irish fishing grounds. We would not only see a return of our fleet into our waters, who have lost access but also an increase of vessels from the other Member States, jeopardising Ireland’s biologically sensitive areas.
“One of the many harmful effects that Brexit may bring, especially a hard Brexit, is the impact of the changes to fishing communities across Europe. The European Commission has warned fishers who operate in British waters that they risk being pushed out in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“With the publication of the draft Brexit agreement this may be avoided but any agreement will need to pass through the British parliament. The Irish Government and the EU must work to ensure that fishing vessels from outside Ireland do not crowd into Irish waters as a result of Brexit. This would have grave consequences for the Irish fishing sector and the communities depending on it.
“The Irish Government must put in place specific safeguards and use their voice in the European Council to ensure that this possibility does not become a reality.”
Liadh Ní Riada MEP
6 Patrick’s Quay, Cork
021 451 8986