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Daylight robbery!

Not content with getting our fish, now France wants Ireland’s BREXIT deal quota loss compensation money!

Ireland’s share of overall €5bn EU BREXIT fund, including the €600m earmarked as compensation for the loss of Irish fishing quotas in their own waters, is being threatened by a French plan which would see larger nations such as France and Spain gain the biggest share of the overall fund.

As reported by Irish Times’ Europe Correspondent Naoimi O’Leary (Wednesday March 17), France has already previously lobbied to increase its €400 million share of the fisheries compensation package in an attempt to get extra support for its fishing communities affected by the reduction in access to British fishing grounds.

Paris has proposed a different ‘allocation key’ that would result in extra money from the compensation fund going to bigger states such as France, Spain and Italy.

Under French proposals to change how payouts are calculated, Ireland’s share compensation fund would be slashed by at least 20% and this move by France threatens to delay the arrival of funds as it has led to the re-opening of negotiations on the issue among member states.

The French proposal is said to have the support of Italy, Spain and Greece, but diplomats said there was widespread recognition of the outsized impact of Brexit on Ireland and sympathy for its position.

“Ireland is hardest hit by the consequences of Brexit. The proposal by the Commission took this into account. Efforts by Paris to change the allocation criteria would result in even more cuts for Ireland and more money for France. This doesn’t really make for a nice picture,” an EU diplomat told the Irish Times.

Just under €1 billion of the overall fund was to be received by Ireland in pre-financing in 2021, with the possibility for further top-ups later.

Ireland was to receive the biggest share allocated to any member states under the fund, which was agreed last year to support the EU countries hardest-hit by Brexit.

But the method of calculating each country’s share proposed by the European Commission has not been signed off by member state governments, and Paris now proposes a different “allocation key” that would result in extra money going to bigger states such as France, Italy and Spain.

This would come at the expense of 14 other countries and would hit Ireland the hardest, removing €200 million from the expected €1 billion that had been due to arrive this year, according to calculations by Belgian MEP Pascal Arimont, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

“The four big countries that will have more, much more, are not those that are the most affected by BREXIT,” said the Christian Social Party MEP.

“If we do a Brexit Adjustment Reserve with the aim to cover costs in member states most affected, in my opinion then we should stick to that.”

The issue is currently being thrashed out between national officials with the Portuguese presidency of the EU trying to broker a compromise to avoid delays to the expected payouts, which were designed to kick in quickly to be effective.

Meanwhile it is believed that some member states are wary of revisiting the topic, which was part of a delicate compromise designed to bridge differing views between member states on budgetary matters and new rules tying payouts to respect for the rule of law.

The Irish perspective

This proposal, which surely adds insult to injury for Irish fishermen, raises several questions and not least of these is that when bitterly complaining of the BREXIT deal injustice of Ireland ending up with the biggest loss of quotas in its own waters compared to other member states, the Irish fishing and seafood industry are continually told, by our own Government, that everything to do with this arrangement is ‘tied up’ in one overall package and that no single element (such as fisheries) can be re-negotiated – yet here we have France being allowed to attempt to alter the terms of the compensation fund.

So, are all the elements of the BREXIT package a ‘done deal’ or not --- and if not, why isn’t our Government battling to demand a fairer deal and more level ‘burden sharing’ agreement of Irish quotas?

Despite Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine Charlie McConalogue telling everyone that a fleet decommissioning scheme will ‘solve’ the problems and somehow make up for the huge quota loss in our own waters - a decommissioning scheme which very few fishermen want to take – even that fund now looks like it will be reduced so France can not only lose very little in Irish waters but also want the lion’s share of the compensation money!

But another point is that while we, the Irish fishing industry, are naturally annoyed at first the total failure of our own Dept of Marine’s lack of backbone in defending our corner in the BREXIT deal negotiations and now the possibility in losing a sizeable portion of the compensation fund, one cannot help but admire the French fisheries department for always fighting for more for their fishermen.

Such loyalty to their fishing communities is evident all over Europe where seafaring nations are proud of their fishing traditions and defend it at every opportunity while Ireland not only neglects this heritage but actively works against its fishing industry in a strategy that continues to strengthen the calls for an internal investigation into the Department of Marine’s management of the industry over the past 25 years.

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