War of words as UK exits fisheries agreement
Fishermen in Northern Ireland have hit back after the Irish government criticised the UK's decision to withdraw from an arrangement allowing other countries to fish in British waters.
Ministers are set to trigger the UK's exit from the London Fisheries Convention, signed in 1964 before joining the EU, to start the two-year process to leave the agreement. The convention allows vessels from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of the UK's coastline.
Irish Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Michael Creed said the announcement by the UK government was "unwelcome and unhelpful".
"It is a part of Brexit and will be considered by the EU 27 member states and the (Michel) Barnier team when the negotiations commence," he said.
The Irish fishing fleet has access to parts of the UK six to 12-mile zone, as has the UK fleet to parts of the Irish zone. These access rights were incorporated into the EU Common Fisheries Policy.
Mr Creed added: "Brexit poses very serious challenges to the seafood sector and this announcement will form part of the negotiations."
Last night, the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation (ANIFPO) tweeted that it was the Republic that had created a hard border against Kilkeel fishermen in October 2016.
"Kilkeel fleet already has problems created by Ireland in October 2016 by ending access to their inshore waters. Not the way to do business," ANIFPO said.
The group added that £1 million of Northern Ireland's quota is surrendered annually to the Republic of Ireland under EU rules, and branded that "unwelcome and unhelpful".
Sean O'Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation on Ireland's west coast, said the move was an aggressive measure by the UK.