REGARDLESS of a soft, hard or no-deal Brexit, the Irish fisheries industry is going to be affected by Britain’s departure from the European Union. However, it is the scenario of a no-deal exit that worries fishermen the most. And rightly so.
In light of the potential threats it faces, a standalone minister for the sector has been called for by Cork South West independent TD, Michael Collins, stating that ‘not since Ireland joined the EEC has the need for a dedicated Minister for Fisheries been more pressing.’ Back in the early 1970s, the government of the time granted a lot more fishing rights to other European countries than it should have in return for a better deal for the more powerful Irish farming lobby and the fishing industry has, historically, been the poor relation since we joined.
The fisheries portfolio has been under the umbrella of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, currently Macrompian Michael Creed, who seems to be working well with the fish producers’ organisations along our seaboard, especially in the area of quota negotiations and the development of facilities in the main fishing ports. Setting up a separate department with a further layer of bureaucracy is hardly what’s needed at this critical juncture with less than six weeks to go to the Brexit date, March 29th.
However, Minister Creed – as suggested by Fianna Fáil TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony – should set up a forum of all stakeholders in the marine sector to prepare for whatever Brexit may bring. All scenarios need to be teased out, especially if EU fishermen are to be banned from British waters and this drives boats from countries such as Belgium, Holland and Denmark into the Atlantic waters off our west coast.