New war of words in the UK-France fishing line
Earlier this year, French fishing boats protested off Jersey against what they called unfair restrictions – Copyright AFP / File SAUL LOEB
Sofia BOUDERBALA and Adam PLOWRIGHT
A smoldering row between London and Paris over post-Brexit fishing rights erupted on Wednesday, with France threatening to disrupt trade from November 2 if its boats did not have more access to British waters.
Measures targeting UK fish exports would include “systematic customs and sanitary controls on products imported into France and a ban on the landing of seafood,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters.
European Minister for Europe Clément Beaune said additional controls could also be extended to “other goods” by “strengthening our procedures and controls compared to current practices”.
Tweeting in response to Beaune, London’s Brexit Minister David Frost issued a government statement that “France’s threats are disappointing and 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 (post-Brexit) and broader international law,” the statement continued.
He said London would respond to any French initiative with “an appropriate and calibrated response”.
The latest feud between the neighbors was sparked by licensing rules for EU fishing vessels wishing to operate in the waters around Britain and the Channel Islands after Brexit.
France was enraged by the rejection of French ships by Britain and the autonomous Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, which depend on London for defense and foreign affairs.
While targeted measures for the fisheries sector would hurt UK exports, broader customs controls could seriously slow trade with the UK.
– Diplomatic relations at their lowest –
British fishermen, who export most of their products to the EU, are very dependent on French ports as a gateway to the continent.
France “will not let Britain dry its shoes on the Brexit deal,” Attal added.
The soaring fishery is the latest in a string of disagreements that have plunged diplomatic relations to their lowest level in decades.
In addition to tensions over migration, Paris was outraged in September after Britain helped negotiate a deal to supply Australia with US nuclear submarine technology, which led Canberra to cancel a mega – agreement with France for conventional submarines.
France says Britain and the Channel Islands have issued around 210 permanent licenses to French vessels to operate in their territorial waters, and 240 have been rejected or pending approval.
Attal claimed that France was missing “nearly 50% of the licenses to which we are entitled” under the fisheries agreement reached between Britain and the European Union in December of last year. .
Britain denies any discrimination against French fishermen and says overall “98 percent of fishing licenses have been granted” to EU vessels.
This figure includes the approximately 1,700 licenses issued to EU vessels to operate in more distant waters located in the UK’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 12 to 200 nautical miles from the coast.
But it is the authorizations for coastal territorial waters that are the main source of tension.
– Other measures? –
In June, angry French fishermen marched to Jersey’s main port to protest, prompting Britain to send two naval patrol boats to the area.
Beaune said sanctions against Britain could be stepped up over time.
“Either this first series of measures leads to a dialogue on authorizations, then that’s good,” he said during a hearing in the French Senate.
“Either these measures do not lead to the implementation of the agreement and we will take other measures, in particular on the supply of electricity for example,” he added, echoing previous French threats to reduce Jersey’s electricity supply.
As part of the post-Brexit deal, EU fishermen wishing to operate in UK waters had to prove that they had fished in the region in previous years.
The rejected French fishermen say they are unfairly limited due to bureaucracy and bureaucracy.
They say small boats lack the required GPS equipment to prove their experience, while others complain that they have difficulty obtaining licenses for new vessels.
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