Calls have been made for Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to appear before an Oireachtas committee to address the detrimental implications of Britain’s withdrawal from the London Fisheries Convention.
The British government has announced it intends to withdraw from the agreement, first signed in 1964 before joining the EU, which allows vessels from Ireland and a number of other EU countries to fish within six to 12 nautical miles of the UK’s coastline.
Mr Creed described the decision as “potentially enormous” but added that the UK would be taking up “maximum positions” going into Brexit negotiations.
He added that publicly discussing a Plan B if Irish fishermen are prevented from entering UK waters would not be wise as it would demonstrate a certain weakness.
“We are not conceding access to UK waters in this process,” he told RTE’s Drivetime programme.
“This is not a time to blink this is a time to hold our nerve.”
Mr Creed is due to speak with the British environment secretary, Michael Gove, by phone tomorrow and his announcement to withdraw from the agreement is likely to be top of the agenda.
Mr Creed will also brief his Cabinet colleagues on the hardline stance taken by UK at their weekly meeting tomorrow .
However, members of the joint committee on agriculture, food, and the marine have called on the minister to urgently appear before it to answer questions on the negative impact the withdrawal would have on Ireland’s fishing industry.
Labour’s Willie Penrose also called on the Government to stall further progression of the Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 in the wake of Britain’s announcement.
Mr Penrose, who is a member of the agriculture committee, said: “Around a third of the catch brought ashore by Irish fishermen comes from British waters, with a heavy reliance on the UK for mackerel in particular.
“Banning Irish trawlers from fishing within 12 nautical miles of the UK coastline- while EU trawlers still have the same level of access to Irish waters — could have a devastating impact on the fishing industry here.
“The Government now needs to go about securing a larger quota from the EU in a bid to level the playing field for Irish fishermen.”
Sinn Féin fisheries spokesman Martin Ferris also called on Mr Creed to appear before the joint committee this week.
“It is imperative that Irish fishermen are not made the meat in the sandwich between the EU and Britain,” said Mr Ferris. “It is clear that the British side is willing to gamble on a hard Brexit and to hell with the repercussions.”
Mr Ferris added that Ireland cannot let itself be “bullied” on the matter as “the reality is, and the British are well aware, that their fish stocks are shared with others, including Ireland. Fish do not recognise nor respect national boundaries and it is in all our interests to get the best deal possible”,
A spokesman for Mr Creed said he regularly attends the committee and would appear to answer questions if invited.
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