NI fishermen warn against EU transition deal ‘sell-out’

An aerial view of Kilkeel Harbour in Co Down
An aerial view of Kilkeel Harbour in Co Down

The transition deal struck between the UK and European Commission “represents a potential sell-out” of the Northern Ireland fishing fleet, a fishing body has claimed.

Alan McCulla, chief executive officer of the Anglo North Irish Fish Producers Organisation (ANIFPO), has said that if the agreement on a transition deal is “replicated for the longer term”, the fishing fleet here “will be sold out again”.

The transition deal announced on Monday will allow talks on the future trade relationship between the UK and the European Commission to be triggered later this week.

On fishing rights, the agreement reached by Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier states that the UK will be “consulted” on the allocation of quotas during the transition period.

This essentially means the UK will not regain full control of its fishing waters on March 29, 2019, the ‘Brexit day’ when the UK officially leaves the EU. The current situation, which allows fishermen from any EU nation to fish freely within any other EU countries waters, will remain largely unchanged until 2021.

Responding to the news, ANIFPO CEO Mr McCulla said: “Clearly Monday’s draft agreement between the EU and UK regarding the implementation period represents a second potential sell-out of Northern Ireland and the UK’s fishing fleet.”

He continued: “In June 2016 the vast majority of fishermen voted to leave the EU and CFP (common fisheries policy) in the hope of reversing the sell-out they were subjected to in 1973. If what is contained in the transition period draft deal is replicated for the longer term we will be sold out again.”

Mr McCulla did, however, sound a note of caution since the “final package” has not yet been agreed.

“We have been continually reminded that there will be no deal until everything is agreed,” he said. “The implementation period deal will represent the end of the second of a three-phase withdrawal process negotiation. Let’s see what happens between now and when the final package is delivered in October 2018.”

Mr McCulla’s comments follow a similar message delivered by Bertie Armstrong, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.

Mr Armstrong said: “We will leave the EU and leave the CFP, but hand back sovereignty over our seas a few seconds later. Our fishing communities’ fortunes will still be subject to the whim and largesse of the EU for another two years.”