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'We won't accept this': Post-Brexit trade agreement disappoints Irish fishing industry

Meanwhile, business groups are cautiously optimistic about the deal

A fishing boat working in the English Channel.
A fishing boat working in the English Channel.
Image: PA

AN IRISH FISHING industry group has reacted angrily to the terms of a post-Brexit trade agreement between the UK and the European Union.

Under the deal announced today, the EU will hand back to the UK 25% of the value of fish stocks caught by European boats in British waters, having originally proposed to hand back between just 15% and 18%. 

Earlier this week, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier rejected a push by UK diplomats to reduce EU access to British fish stocks by as much as 35%.

The compromise is being hailed by the British government as a significant increase in the quota for UK fishers.

But the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), which represents Donegal fishermen, has said today that it won’t accept the new arrangements, which will reduce its members’ access to UK waters.

“In spite of a seismic effort to redress the imbalance of the proposed deal in recent days, not enough has changed and our highly-developed mackerel fishery stands to lose out dramatically,” said Seán O’Donoghue, KFO chief executive.

“While the full detail of the text is not yet available, it will require very close examination and analysis. Make no mistake – we will be seeking compensation from our EU colleagues to put right this grievous wrong.

“We won’t accept this. Moreover, we fully expect the Irish Government to deliver the requisite compensation in the form of transfer of mackerel quota from the other EU coastal states which pro-rata, have seen a much less severe impact on their respective mackerel fisheries.”

Commenting on the announcement of the deal this evening, the Taoiseach conceded that the agreement will be disappointing for Irish fishers.

“But compared with the prospect of ‘no-deal’, which would have seen them completely excluded from British waters, the negotiators have worked hard to minimise the damage,” Micheál Martin said in a statement.

“The Government will work to ensure that the sector and the coastal communities that depend on it are supported through the period ahead.”

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Costs and delays

Business groups, meanwhile, have expressed relief that a trade deal was reached before the end of the Brexit withdrawal period on 1 January.

“It is a major relief for Irish businesses exporting to the UK that the threat of about €2 billion annual tariffs has now been removed,” said Danny McCoy, chief executive of business lobby group IBEC.

“However,” he warned, “the trading conditions for Irish business with our nearest neighbour will be very different, involving complex customs procedures and more costly transport options.”

The British Irish Chamber of Commerce has also welcomed the announcement but added that the agreement will cost Irish businesses in the end.

Its director-general, John McGrane said, “Although the agreement protects the free trade of goods, businesses still face increased costs and delays and disruption in areas such as financial services amongst others. This will add new costs to businesses at a time when they are looking to recover from the ever-growing impacts of Covid-19.”

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