Friday, January 21

Salty Language: Why Are the UK and France Fighting Over Fishing Licenses? | Fishing industry

Britain and France have been at odds over post-Brexit fishing licenses for UK waters since the beginning of the year. Both parties now threaten imminent action, and translation errors have not helped.

What’s at the heart of the row?

Under the Brexit trade and cooperation agreement (TCA), French fishermen can continue to fish between six and 12 miles off the UK coast and off Guernsey and Jersey until 2026 if they have a discretionary license issued by Britain.

To obtain that license, they must have previously fished in those waters between 2012 and 2016, but the two countries disagree on the evidence required for past activity, and how much of it should be necessary.

France says that for the 6-12 mile zone and off Guernsey and Jersey, 210 licenses have been granted so far, while it applied for 454. Authorities say only about 20 of Boulogne’s fleet of 112 are allowed to fish in that area.

The UK says it has granted around 1,700 licenses, or 98% of EU applications. But that figure includes licenses to fish in Britain’s exclusive economic zone between 12 and 200 miles off the coast, which were automatic under the terms of the ATT.

The heart of the argument is that in the disputed areas (6-12 miles, and around Jersey and Guernsey), the TCA defines which boats qualify for licenses through their past activity, but does not specify exactly what proof is required.

What are both sides threatening?

France says the rules imposed by the UK, Jersey and Guernsey are unfair to smaller boats, which typically don’t have the GPS equipment to prove their presence in UK waters. Britain says it has the right to ask for the evidence it wants.

French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed on Sunday that if Britain did not change its approach, France could ban the unloading of British ships at some French ports, carry out additional license checks, tighten controls on trucks and strengthen customs controls. and hygiene from Tuesday.

Both parties appear to believe that the other has violated, or is about to do so, the terms of the ATT.

France’s Europe Minister ClĂ©ment Beaune said on Sunday that the UK had not issued a “significant number” of licenses and was “targeting one country”. This “was not a technical problem, it is a political election and a violation of the ATT,” he said.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Monday gave France 48 hours to withdraw its “completely unreasonable” threats, warning that the UK could “use the mechanisms of our trade agreement with the EU to act.”

What happens next?

It depends on what measures France implements on Tuesday and how the UK decides to respond, but one or both parties could enter the TCA dispute resolution process.

This would involve first entering into consultations and then, if they fail, triggering arbitration. If one side is found to be in breach of the TCA, it must comply with the decision within a reasonable period of time or risk having the winning side withdraw the benefits of the TCA.

Given the rhetoric on both sides and the domestic political advantage that can be gained by playing hard, it is difficult to see a rapid de-escalation. There may be little appetite in the EU27 for a fisheries war, but there is also a sense that Britain is pushing its luck too often.

Things have not been favored by bad translations either. Boris Johnson on Sunday cited a letter from French Prime Minister Jean Castex to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, saying she called on the EU to “punish” Britain.

Other reports said the letter called on the EU to “cause damage” to the UK. The phrase could be better translated as: “It is essential to show European public opinion that respect for the commitments assumed is non-negotiable and that it is more harmful to leave the EU than to remain in it.”

Sadly, the point was made, but many EU leaders have done so since the Brexit referendum.

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