Saturday, December 4

France to use ‘force language’ in post-Brexit fishing rights dispute | Brexit

France’s EU Affairs Minister Clément Beaune has said that Paris “will now use the language of force” in an escalation of a dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights as French maritime police seized a trawler. British found in their territorial waters without a license.

One vessel had been detained off Le Havre in the early hours of Thursday morning, after which it was diverted to the dock and “turned over to the judicial authority”, while a second received a verbal warning.

In a statement, the French government said that the checks during the scallop fishing season had been routine, but admitted that they were carried out “in the context of the license discussion with the UK and the European Commission.”

Responding to an urgent question in the Commons on Thursday, UK Environment Secretary George Eustice condemned the comments as “not what we would expect from a close ally and partner” and warned of possible retaliation.

The trawler was later identified as Cornelis Gert Jan, by a spokesperson for the Southwest Fish Producers Organization.

The French government has been enraged in recent months by the response of the UK and Jersey authorities to post-Brexit requests by French fishing vessels for permits for their waters, which are regulated by the EU-UK trade agreement. agreed on Christmas Eve. year.

The dispute erupted on Wednesday when Paris said it would ban British fishing boats from landing shellfish in key ports starting Tuesday unless they received more licenses for French vessels, and vowed to impose onerous controls on trade across the Channel.

A threat to the UK’s energy supply was also issued if those initial Paris sanctions did not prompt the issuance of additional permits.

Sources in Brussels confirmed that there is still no support among the other 26 member states for EU action against the UK on the issue through the dispute resolution mechanism in the trade and cooperation agreement.

Later on Thursday morning, Beaune redoubled, however, at the threat of unilateral French action, saying the situation was “unacceptable.”

“So now, we have to speak the language of force, as it seems to be the only thing this British government understands,” he said. “We have been extremely patient, our fishing boats have been extremely responsible, because it is a major loss of their activity. As of November it is over. We will open the dialogue if the British want dialogue, it is up to them, but we will implement retaliatory measures because there is no reason why we should not have access to their waters when they have access to our ports ”.

The UK has stated that 1,700 EU vessels have already obtained licenses to fish in UK waters and that 98% of fishing license applications have been granted.

Eustice repeated this statistic in the Commons on Thursday, saying the UK “is keeping its commitments in the trade and cooperation agreement.”

He said: “It is very disappointing to see the comments that came from France yesterday. We believe these are disappointing, disproportionate and not what we would expect from a close ally and partner.

“The threatened measures do not appear to be compatible with the trade and cooperation agreement, or with the broader international law, and if they are carried out, they will be met with an adequate and calibrated response.”

French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin accused the UK of spreading misinformation. “The figure of 98% of the licenses granted by the UK to Europeans is false,” he said. “Only 90.3% were. Obviously, the remaining 10% is for the French… It has been nine months since the French fishermen could no longer work. It is a violation of your signature by the British. That’s enough.”

The main differences between the two sides center on the rights within the six to 12 mile zone of the British coast. Earlier this week, the European Commission said the UK government had approved 15 of 47 requests for French ships to operate in those coastal waters. An additional 15 applications were being examined where evidence of activity in those waters is limited, but French applicants have withdrawn 17 applications due to “poor evidence”.

Of greater concern to the French authorities is that a third of the boats requesting to fish in the waters of Jersey, a dependency of the British crown, have also been rejected by the island’s government.

Barrie Deas of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations, the body that represents fishermen in England, said the descent to an “tit for tat” relationship was “futile”.

He told the BBC’s Today program: “It may be a normal execution action, but in the context of the threatening noises coming from the French government… it is very worrying.

“France seems determined to escalate this licensing problem and I suppose we have to ask why. Presidential elections are looming in France and all signs are that the rhetoric has escalated earlier than that on the fisheries issue. “

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