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Brexit crisis as Ireland forced to beg EU to approve £8.6m bailout of its fishermen

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The European Commission backed the state aid handout after Dublin proposed a scheme to help trawlermen deal with losing access to Britain’s coastal waters. Under the plan, Irish vessels will be paid to stop fishing for at least a month, between September 1 and December 31. It is hoped that paying fishermen to stay at home will free up fishing quotas for other vessels to use.

“The compensation will be granted as a non-refundable grant, calculated on the basis of gross earnings averaged for the fleet size, excluding the cost of fuel and food for the crew of the vessel,” a statement by the European Commission said.

“Each eligible company will be entitled to the support for up to a month in the period between September 1 to December 31, 2021.”

Under the post-Brexit trade deal, Brussels agreed to hand back 25 percent of fish caught by value in British waters.

Subsequent analysis of the deal has suggested that Ireland will lose around 15 percent of its fishing quota share by 2026.

That is almost twice the level due to be given up by the French fishing sector as a proportion of quota value, according to Irish government data.

Dublin has complained that an unfair burden was put on the Irish fishing industry under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

In June, Irish premier Micheal Martin said: “Rightly or wrongly, the Commission’s assertion is that there was overfishing of our quota and it wants to claw some of that back.

“We are resisting that. We will need to deploy all legal tools at our disposal to resist it. We need to reset our relationship with Europe regarding fishing.”

Ireland are set to receive some £900 million from the EU’s so-called Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

The £4.2 billion fund was designed to help EU member states deal with the negative consequences of Brexit.

Brussels has said the latest approval of state aid doesn’t “prejudice” any funds Dublin is set to receive from the war chest.

The Commission said: “The Commission found that the measure enhances the sustainability of the fishery sector and its ability to adapt to new fishing and market opportunities arising from the new relationship with the UK.

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“Therefore, the measure facilitates the development of this sector and contributes to the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy to ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally sustainable in the long term.

“The Commission concluded that the measure constitutes an appropriate form of support in order to facilitate an orderly transition in the EU fishery sector following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU State aid rules.

“Today’s decision does not prejudge whether the support measure will eventually be eligible for Brexit Adjustment Reserve ‘BAR’ funding, which will be assessed once the BAR Regulation has entered into force.”

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In July, the Commission approved a similar request by Germany to fork out £4.3 million to its fishing industry.

Berlin warned its trawlermen had seen at least 30 percent of their income disappear overnight.

Those worst-hit vessels will be able to apply for a non-repayable grant, funded by the German state budget before eventually being replaced by the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

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