Rockall is in the news again, and because I do remember researching the thorny legal issues some years ago for Oileáin 2014, I dutifully resorted to reading it (!) to see what it had to say on the subject.
I was immediately reminded that Kevin O’Callaghan (a.k.a. GEO), first President of the Irish Sea Kayaking Association, summitted in 2007, so ISKA has skin in the game.
The final paragraph under the “legal issues explained” is poignant. Oileáin noted that Rockall “isn’t urgent”. The main then and now current national economic benefit of the Rockall area is in its fishery, and the management of EU fisheries had been ceded to the EU many years previous. It was Oileáin then felt, overstating it that sovereignty has also thus been ceded, but that “realistically, if Iceland were to join the EU, the whole position would be irrelevant” for practical purposes.
That was premised on the four disputers of Rockall being Iceland, UK, Ireland and Denmark, three / four of whom were EU and Iceland were making noises. Now with Brextit its gone the other way completely.
The relevant law is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982. Everyone except USA and Uzbekhistan has signed up. This agreement provides for “extended continental shelf” claims in certain circumstances beyond the “normal” limit of the “exclusive economic zones” projecting seaward from sovereign states for 200nm from their coastline, the usual limit that everyone agrees in principle that everyone else may enjoy. Uninhabitable rocks visible above the surfaces don’t count. When the UK ratified the Convention, it gave up its (previously claimed) right to a 200nm zone around Rockall.
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