The EU’s Chief Negotiator might be softening his stance when it comes to fisheries KFO’s CEO, Sean O’Donoghue tells Morning Ireland

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, Chief Executive Sean O’Donoghue spoke ealier today to RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland over his concerns that Michel Barnier’s stance on the EU-UK Future Negotiations is beginning to soften.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland Programme this morning Mr O’Donoghue said that he feared that the EU’s Chief Negotiator was going to diverge from the commitment he undertook from the European Council as pressure comes from other sectors to get a trade deal done with the UK.

 In the interview he expressed apprehension that any other deal other than the current mandate Michel Barnier has been given would be a huge disaster for the Irish fishing industry which could lose anything up to 60% of it’s annual earnings.

You can listen to the interview here:  

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, Chief Executive, Sean O’Donoghue speaking on Moring Ireland earlier today.

Questions opened with the interviewer asking Mr O’Donoghue what was he worried about? Mr O’Donoghue answered:

“We are worried that there is a softening of the position from the very clear mandate that the Council gave to Michel Barnier which said fisheries would be negotiated in the context of the wider trade negotiations and that we would uphold the existing access and quota share arrangements. 

“It is very clear and unambiguous in the mandate and I am really pleased that the fisheries minister made it in no uncertain terms clear again to Michel Barnier yesterday that is the mandate he has.

Asked what made him worried Mr O’Donoghue replied:

“I think there is a lot of spin and counterspin coming from London in relation to this. They’re obviously putting a lot of stay on fisheries because they feel that is the only area that they have any upper hand on the EU as such. It is very important for them to break the link between the overall trade and fisheries as such. He is coming under pressure in the negotiations.”

Asked what evidence he had that Michel Barnier is bending to that pressure?

“Even from a fisheries point of view we want, and it is in all our interests that there is a deal here at the end of the year. I would imagine that the other sectors are putting pressure as well that we need in the interests of both the UK and the European Union to have as close a trade deal as possible.”

On Zonal Attachment Mr O’Donoghue said:

“Fish don’t recognise artificial boundaries. What fish are in these waters may not be here in 20 years time, so this concept of zonal attachment is not acceptable and is totally contrary to what is laid down in the mandate. If Michel Barnier is negotiating on zonal attachment he is certainly not doing it in accordance with the mandate that he has been given by the Council as such.”

Asked what the consequences of losing access to UK water would be for the Irish fishing industry Mr O’Donoghue replied:

“We are adamant at the moment and we have been from the very beginning that access is critical to us as is the quota shares. 

“What we are saying is if we do end up losing out on access here, this is a disaster for us as such, because we are very much dependent. If you take our two main stocks which make up about 60% of the total of our seafood landings. 

“If you take Mackerel for example, we are 60% dependent on access to UK waters. If you take prawns we are 40% dependent. They combine together to make up 60% of our value. If we lose that, this will be dreadful for the fishing industry and our seafood industry which is worth €1.22 billion annually. It could be reduced by €500 million if we are denied access and we could lose four  to five-thousand jobs from our 16,000 jobs in the fishing industry.”

Listen to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland interview with Sean O’Donoghue here

by editor time to read: 7 min