Telephone diplomacy only for Lough Foyle since 2017: Gove

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The Lough Foyle border dispute has only been discussed over the telephone or by email by Dublin and London over the past year-and-a-half, according to one of the favourites to become the next British Prime Minister.

The UK’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, admitted there have been no sit-down talks since 2017.

He acknowledged that, with the UK set to depart from the EU in a matter of months, “any working agreement/transitional arrangements for Lough Foyle will require a carefully managed plan”.

In a letter to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee the British fisheries minister explained that the Lough Foyle border dispute is the responsibiliy of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Controversially, the UK claims it owns the whole of the lough right up to the high water mark on the Inishowen shore. This claims has always been denied by Dublin. The last time the department’s officials sat down with their Irish counterparts, however, was in autumn 2017 when Boris Johnson was still the British Foreign Secretary.

“Management of the relationship with Ireland over the border Loughs is a matter for the FCO,” wrote Mr. Gove.

“The FCO hosted a meeting with the Irish Government in London to discuss the Loughs on October 7, 2017. Since then, contact has been by telephone call and email, as the Irish considered they did not need a return to Dublin and work could progress by these means.

“Any working agreement/transitional arrangements for Lough Foyle will require a carefully managed plan with clearly defined timelines and actions before any functions are undertaken by the relevant Competent Authorities in both Jurisdictions.

“The management of Lough Foyle needs to be considered as a whole, and at present there are a number of matters that remain to be resolved including shipping and fisheries. It is not therefore possible to provide a single date for when matters relating to fisheries will be resolved,” he added.