MPs call for ban on Irish fishing vessels after Brexit
Claim that mutual fishing rights suspension is causing hardship to North’s fishermen
The Supreme Court ruled in October 2016 that the so-called Voisinage Agreement, an informal arrangement dating from the 1960s and limited to small fishing vessels, had to be provided for in legislation if it was to continue. Photograph: Chris Furlong/Getty Images
Irish fishing vessels should be excluded from UK waters as soon as Britain leaves the European Union next March unless the Government resolves a dispute over fishing rights, a committee of MPs has recommended.
In a report on fisheries after Brexit, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee says Ireland’s unilateral suspension of a mutual fishing rights deal was causing hardship to fishermen in Northern Ireland.
The Supreme Court ruled in October 2016 that the so-called Voisinage Agreement, an informal arrangement dating from the 1960s and limited to small fishing vessels, had to be provided for in legislation if it was to continue.
The Government introduced a bill to address the issue but its passage through the Oireachtas was delayed after fishing groups warned that its wording could allow large British vessels to fish in Irish waters.
“We are disappointed that the Voisinage Arrangement has been unilaterally suspended in Ireland. While Irish fishermen have access to waters in Northern Ireland, fishermen in Northern Ireland have suffered hardship through exclusion from their habitual fishing grounds. This needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency,” the committee’s report says.
“We recommend the Government structures talks with the Irish Government to establish the future of reciprocal access for Northern Irish vessels under the Voisinage Arrangement.
“If the Irish Government does not give a clear commitment to pass, within six months of publication of this report, legislation which restores reciprocal access, the Government must discontinue access to UK waters for Irish vessels from March 30th, 2019.
“If the Irish Government does pass legislation to reinstate the Voisinage Arrangement, then the UK Government should consider whether the arrangement should also be put on statutory footing in UK law.”
The report also calls for an early resolution to the dispute between the British and Irish governments over the delimitation of maritime borders in cross-Border Loughs Foyle and Carlingford.