The reality is that we have no idea what fishing or fishing relations will be after Brexit. Even if someone were anxious to legislate to implement the previous Neighbourhood Agreement, I think it is ill-thought-out, ill-thought-out and, in my opinion, ill-advised to legislate at this stage, because we do not know what the common fisheries policy agreements will be in the context of a post-Brexit scenario. The United Kingdom continued to recognize the Neighbourhood Agreement, which allows Irish vessels to continue to fish freely in coastal waters around Northern Ireland. “There was this mutual access to the end. That is the terminology; This is a neighbourhood agreement. There is a precedent for other neighbourhood agreements that need to be negotiated outside of general access. Our position vis-à-vis the British government is that we want to separate the neighbourhood from the global fisheries agreement with the EU. You accepted it. There does not appear to be any impedid to us continuing with the neighbourhood or entering into a separate neighbourhood agreement. Even if there is no general fisheries agreement with the EU, we do not think that this would prevent us from concluding a new neighbourhood agreement. 32 UK Environment Minister Michael Gove said last week that his government had “an obligation to protect our strong historical relationship with Ireland,” despite its Brexit strategy to pull out of major coastal and fisheries management agreements at sea. He said: “The mutual basis of the Neighbourhood Agreement has been violated, so why are we still acting as if there are and exercising it to the detriment of local fishermen?” I want to clarify – I now have the press release in hand.
This press release does not indicate that all those who attended last Thursday`s meeting agreed to support the legislation. That is not what she is saying. I spoke tonight with the Irish Fish Producers Organisation and the National Inshore Fisheries Forum before we got to the debate. They made me understand their positions. The press release indicates that the minister will try to allay their concerns, and that he continues with the legislation – it is the minister`s right to do so.