Regulation (EU) 2019/498, amending Regulation (EU) 2017/2403 on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets, was introduced by the EU in March 2019. The 2019 Regulation provides a legal framework to allow the authorisation of EU and UK vessels to continue to fish in each other's waters until 31 December 2019, if agreement is reached between the UK and the EU on such access. The European Commission has put forward a proposal to extend this temporary framework to 31 December 2020, if a Withdrawal Agreement is not in place.
The purpose of these regulations is to provide for the necessary legal framework which would allow the continuation of existing fishing activities, by enabling the EU and the UK to grant access for each other’s fleets. This would only apply if the UK withdraw from the EU on 1 November 2019 without a Withdrawal Agreement in place and if the EU and the UK agree on continuation of access. The Regulation does not provide a commitment of ongoing reciprocal access – it simply creates the necessary legal framework to allow for the possibility of such access.
Both my officials and I have had intensive discussions with the European Commission, other relevant Member States and stakeholders regarding the potential negative impacts of displacement of vessels into the Irish EEZ due to Brexit on the Irish fishing industry and the wider sector as whole. These discussions intensified in recent months and were based on preparatory work already done.
The outcome of these discussions can be seen in the EU Brexit Contingency plan that was published on the 10th of April. This highlights fisheries as one of the most immediately critical issues facing the EU in a no-deal Brexit.
Throughout the discussions around Brexit, I emphasised the necessity for a coordinated European response to ensure that there would be proportionate and equitable use of mitigation measures overseen by the Commission. As I have stated previously, I am seeking additional EU funds to support these mitigation measures if they become necessary.
My Department, along with the SFPA, Marine Institute and BIM, will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that Ireland's marine area is managed sustainably.