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Labour MP who reignited territorial row says UK has no Lough Foyle claim

A tiny fishing boat at work on the freezing waters of Lough Foyle close to Redcastle in Co Donegal. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.

THE MP whose question about the ownership of Lough Foyle sparked a fresh territorial row believes the secretary of state has "no formal basis" for claiming sovereignty over disputed Irish waters.

David Anderson, Westminster representative for Blaydon in the north east of England, last week asked Secretary of State James Brokenshire how fishing rights will be decided in both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough after Brexit.

The Tory minister said London was committed to withdrawing from the EU Common Fisheries Policy and putting a new fisheries regime in place.

But no actual decisions have yet been taken, he said, adding that the UK was bound by international law.

Asked specifically about Lough Foyle, Mr Brokenshire added: "The government's position remains that the whole of Lough Foyle is within the UK."

However, the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs swiftly rejected the claim.

"Ireland has never accepted the UK's claim to the whole of Lough Foyle," it said in a statement.

The Northern Ireland Office has confirmed Britain's claim over Lough Foyle, citing a 350-year-old charter, while conceding that only part of Carlingford Lough is in UK territorial waters.

"The UK maintains its formal claim to the whole of Lough Foyle, based on a 1662 charter of Charles II, which granted the waters and bed (as well as the fisheries) of Lough Foyle to the Irish Society, and included them as part of County Londonderry," an NIO spokesman said.

"With regards to Carlingford Lough, the UK claims the northern part of the lough."

However, the NIO spokesman said the British government was fully committed "in practice" to supporting "the regulation of activities" in the two border sea loughs by the Loughs Agency, the cross-border body established under the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Anderson told The Irish News that he posed the question to Mr Brokenshire because of concerns about the impact of Brexit on Ireland.

"I was seriously concerned about how ill-prepared the UK government is about the multitude of issues around Brexit in relation to the island of Ireland," he said.

The Labour MP said he was sceptical about the British government's claim and believed the EU would back the Republic in a territorial dispute.

"They may well claim sovereignty but that is clearly not agreed," Mr Anderson said.

"In any dispute are the EU likely to favour the UK who are leaving against the Republic of Ireland, who are remaining and who will suffer immense economic damage as s result?"

He said the British government "needs to get to grips with the unique situation in Northern Ireland".

"The response (from the NIO) gives no formal basis for the outright claim as made in his (Mr Brokenshire's) original response," Mr Anderson said.

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