Belfast Telegraph

Brexit stirs up troubled waters over Lough Foyle

By Cate McCurry

Brexit has sparked its first territorial dispute - reigniting an ancient row over the ownership of Lough Foyle.

Both the UK and the Republic of Ireland lay claim to the vast estuary between Co Londonderry and Co Donegal, a disagreement that started with partition.

After the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the cross-border Loughs Agency was handed responsibility for the waters.

But in the wake of Brexit, the Secretary of State James Brokenshire has reasserted the UK's claim over the entire lough.

However, the Irish government issued a fresh declaration saying it does not accept the claim and does not see Lough Foyle's disputed ownership being put on the table as part of the Brexit negotiations.

Mr Brokenshire was asked in a parliamentary question how fishing rights will be decided in both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough, which also straddles both jurisdictions, after the UK leaves the EU.

When asked specifically about Lough Foyle, he added: "The government's position remains that the whole of Lough Foyle is within the UK."

Dublin's Department of Foreign Affairs swiftly rejected the claim. And Darragh O Brien, Fianna Fáil's foreign affairs spokesperson, called on the Irish government to "robustly defend" its interests in Lough Foyle.

"The Secretary of State's assertion that the UK owns the entirety of the lough would appear to have escalated the issue and are a source of concern. His claim is completely unsustainable and must be robustly challenged by the government," he said.

But Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said that the UK has "never relinquished" its control over the lough.

The DUP man said: "It's important that the UK continues to assert its position on this. As far as the UK government is concerned the issue is settled, but if the Irish government wants to challenge it then there are international processes whereby they can do that. I don't envisage this will be part of the negotiating process because we shouldn't be negotiating over territory."

Belfast Telegraph


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