The fishing rights in the area around Rockall could be a contentious issue during Brexit talks
Rockall is under 300 miles from Scotland and Ireland’s western extremities. It was the subject of Irish rebel ballads and diplomatic tussles over the surrounding fisheries and oil-rich sea bed.
Jane Morrice, a former European Commission representative in Northern Ireland, warned: “It could also raise the age-old controversy over ownership of Rockall which was more or less resolved between the UK and Ireland in 2014.
The rocky outcrop in the North Atlantic is claimed by the UK could make it a small but serious point in future negotiations
Jane Morrice, a former European Commission representative in Northern Ireland
“The fact that the rocky outcrop in the North Atlantic is claimed by the UK as part of Scotland could make it a small but serious point in future negotiations.”
Morrice is worried talks over fishing rights would require a complicated agreement that could make or break Northern Ireland's fishing industry.
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Rockall is 423km from Tory Island and just 25m wide and 31m long but was at the centre of ownership rows for decades.
Eamon O’Cuiv, Fianna Fail’s island affairs spokesman from Galway in Ireland’s west, said: “In the event of a hard Brexit, there is a strong desire by many in the UK fishing industry to “pull up the drawbridge”.
“And push for a ban on non-UK fishing fleets fishing in UK waters so that the currently shared fishing zone will be the UK’s and the UK’s alone.”
The rock was claimed for the British crown in 1955, by Royal Marines Commando forces who planted the Union Flag on it, and Ireland gave up its own claim when its sovereignty was finally settled in Scotland’s favour in 2014.
O'Cuiv is worried a hard brexit will mean it is tough to reach a fishing agreement
Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation on the west coast of Co Donegal, said: “We can fish at the minute in Rockall as we have fishing rights there.
“When the UK leaves they will no longer be part of the Common Fisheries Policy and there will have to be some detailed discussions around the fisheries which are very difficult to resolve.
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Royal Marines planted a flag on the rock in 1955
“The limits won’t be under discussion and Rockall pales into insignificance in terms of some of the other areas in terms of access to UK waters.”
Scottish Natural Heritage said the area around Rockall supports large stocks of haddock and monkfish and fish species quite distinct from elsewhere in Scotland.