148.The Northern Ireland fishing industry has enormous potential, post-Brexit, to generate more jobs and greater economic benefit for coastal communities, as well as contribute further to the wider Northern Ireland economy. The UK’s decision to leave the EU offers the chance for the commercial catching sector in Northern Ireland to benefit from new fishing opportunity in UK waters. However, for the processing sector and those fishermen reliant on non-quota species, the risks of increased bureaucracy and the introduction of tariffs on trade with the EU means that securing access to the single market is a key priority.
149.The Government should aim to secure an agreement with the EU on both future fisheries management and wider UK-EU relations that enables Northern Ireland to capitalise on the opportunities presented by Brexit. In its response to our report, the Government must clarify how access to UK waters and quota allocations will change. The Government must also provide information on the UK’s capacity to prepare and safeguard its fishing industry in the event of a no deal Brexit. At this critical time of change the Government must support Northern Ireland in dealing with long running structural problems such as infrastructure investment at ports and crewing shortages. The government must demonstrate that it has recognised the fishing industry’s crushing manpower constraints and set out how it will deal with them. This will empower the industry to take advantage of quota dividends and ensure economic benefit stays in local fishing communities. A timeline for the Government to act on our recommendations is contained at Annexe 1.
150.The collapse of devolved Government must not result in Northern Ireland being voiceless and incapable of making important policy decisions on its future fisheries and environment policy at such a time. If the Executive is not restored by the end of the year, the UK Government must be prepared to take such decisions and prevent Northern Ireland from falling behind the other devolved administrations in preparing their fishing fleets for Brexit.
Published: 15 September 2018