Both my officials and I have had intensive discussions with the European Commission, other relevant Member States and stakeholders regarding the potential negative impact of a disorderly or no- deal Brexit on the Irish fishing industry and the wider seafood sector as whole. These discussions intensified in recent months and were based on preparatory work already done. While the immediate threat of a no-deal outcome has been averted, the preparatory work and the discussions will continue.
The key issues in a no-deal situation which I have stressed in all discussions are the potential loss of access for Irish and other EU vessels to the UK fishing zone, the need to ensure ongoing protection of fish stocks in the waters around Ireland from a subsequent increase in fishing activity and potential mitigation measures for the seafood sector at EU level. It is also important to be aware that, in such a no-deal situation, the EU and Ireland could also face a loss of quota share.
Throughout the discussions, 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.
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. We now have identified and agreed co-ordinated and fully prepared measures that will be immediately available to address a no-deal Brexit situation on the 31st of October, if the UK were to decide to deny EU vessels access to UK waters. As I have stated previously, I am seeking additional EU funds to support these mitigation measure if they ever become necessary, which of course I hope they do not. Such financial discussions are ongoing and there are many variables at play but I can assure the Deputy that the seafood sector will, along with agriculture be a key priority for this Government.
I would like to assure the Deputy that I will continue to work to ensure that the marine sector is equally prepared to the agriculture sector.