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The country’s fishing industry could see up to 5,000 jobs slashed if European trawlers are kicked out of Britain’s rich waters, bosses have said. The warning comes after Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier last week admitted that a deal looked “at this point unlikely” as he wrapped up a round of talks with David Frost in London.
The Killybegs Fishermen’s Association which represents fishermen in County Donegal said a no-deal Brexit would have devastating consequences for the local economy.
The boundary where the UK’s waters begin is just 25 miles from Malin Head, the most northerly point of mainland Ireland.
Local fisherman Ciaran Doherty and his family have fished in UK waters for four decades.
He said if the Brexit transition period ended without a free trade agreement in place, Ireland’s fishing industry risked “closing”.
Mr Doherty told RTE News: “Our business has been based for 40 years on accessing the UK waters.
“If on December 31 we have no access to UK waters, basically 60-70 percent of our fish is caught in UK waters, so basically it closes our industry.”
Access to British fishing waters is one of two remaining areas of contention in trade negotiations.
The second is the EU’s demand that Britain tie itself closely to the bloc’s state aid, labour and environmental standards to ensure it does not undercut the bloc’s single market with poor-quality goods.
Sean O’Donoghue of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Association said the value of Ireland’s fishing sector could be cut in half by a hard exit.
The industry is currently worth around €1.2 billion (£1bn).
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He added that “a loss of 4,000 – 5,000 jobs” was also on the cards.
The EU says a deal needs to be done by October to allow time for ratification by the end of the year.
Both sides have indicated that the talks may be stalling.
However, Mr Barnier on Monday struck a more optimistic note than he did last week in the UK.
At a closed-door meeting with national envoys to the bloc, he expressed confidence that a new deal with Britain was possible, according to diplomatic sources.
Ireland and the Netherlands are the member states expected to take the biggest hit from any change in trade rules following December 31.
Envoys from both countries said they remained confident that a new deal with Britain would eventually materialise, the sources said.
In discussions among representatives of the 27 EU member states about fisheries and the latest on Brexit, the Dutch envoy joked about the prospect of a trade deal.
He said that an agreement would eventually “come swimming across the Channel”.
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