Home Uncategorized UK talks with France fail to solve post-Brexit fishing dispute

UK talks with France fail to solve post-Brexit fishing dispute


UK talks with France fail to solve post-Brexit fishing dispute

The UK and France remained locked in a bitter cross-Channel confrontation over fishing licences for French boats in English waters after a meeting between UK Brexit minister Lord David Frost and France’s Europe minister, Clément Beaune, in Paris on Thursday.

The two sides, who cannot even agree on how many licences are in dispute, will continue the discussions next week, according to both governments. France had threatened to impose retaliatory sanctions against the UK — including tighter controls on Europe-bound freight traffic arriving in France — but has suspended the measures while talks continue.

“We have agreed to accelerate and intensify talks into next week,” Beaune said, adding that big gaps remained between the two sides.

“Lord Frost and minister Beaune expect to speak again early next week,” the UK government said. “They discussed the range of difficulties arising from the application of the agreements between the UK and the EU. Both sides set out their positions and concerns.”

Senior French officials accuse the UK government of deliberately targeting France by depriving 200 fishing boats of the full licences to which they are entitled to fish in UK waters and around the Channel Islands under the Brexit agreements, even though more than 10 months have passed since they came into force.

Of the 200 licences outstanding, the French said 14 are deemed urgent and are for boats based in northern France whose skippers want to continue fishing in British territorial waters between six and 12 nautical miles off the south coast of England.

The UK said the boats would be licensed if they provided the necessary evidence of fishing in the area between 2012-16. However, in a statement to parliament on Wednesday the government published figures showing that 96 per cent of requests for licences received from EU member states have been granted. According to the statement, only 89 licences from France are pending or rejected because they lacked proof of previous fishing activity in the relevant areas.

“There is still much work to do,” said one French official ahead of Thursday’s talks. “We’ve negotiated for 10 months and changed the methodology [to verify previous fishing] several times.”

Fishing is only one of the issues pitting Boris Johnson’s government against France and the rest of the EU in the aftermath of Brexit. Another is the fight over the Northern Ireland protocol, under which the UK agreed to border checks in the Irish Sea to prevent a border on the island of Ireland. This meant the north would effectively remain in the EU single market and its frontier with EU member Ireland could remain open. Frost is due to discuss the issue with Maros Sefcovic, European Commission vice-president and EU Brexit negotiator, on Friday.

Many in Brussels expect the UK to unilaterally suspend the protocol in the coming weeks. The EU would then have to decide how to retaliate, possibly with tariffs.

Additional reporting by Eir Nolsoe

Published at Thu, 04 Nov 2021 17:22:29 +0000


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