Brexit. On fishing, the rantings of France do not work

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The quarrel has been polluting the Channel for months: the United Kingdom refuses to issue the essential fishing licenses to just under 200 French boats. On paper, however, under the terms of the trade and cooperation agreement signed in December 2020, a moratorium was to ensure that French fishermen could continue to operate until 2026, at least, in British territorial waters. The problem is that they have to be able to prove that they were already active in the affected areas before Brexit by presenting a catch register and GPS data … which many of them, working on small boats that often practice artisanal fishing, can not do.

Since the beginning of the autumn, after a first failure of negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, the tone has been mounting between Paris and London, in particular. Last week, the French government set an ultimatum for November 1 before launching a series of retaliatory measures: a ban on landing British ships in several French ports, strengthening of sanitary and customs controls, systematic examination of the licenses of English boats or Scottish, etc. But after exchanges between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron during the G20 in Rome (Italy), last weekend, the Elysee has temporarily lifted its threats.

The threat of a trade war with the UK

Throughout the week, negotiations resumed. This Thursday, Clément Beaune, Secretary of State for European Affairs in the Castex government, received David Frost, in charge of the conservative team in power in London to follow Brexit. And, this Friday, a new summit meeting is to be held in Brussels. But while, on the other side of the Channel, the question of fishing has for five years served as a catalyst – with immigration control, in particular – for Brexit, positions are still distant.

While around a quarter of French catches in volume (20% in value) come from British waters, which are rich in fish and, for European fishermen, they are the source of 650 million euros in annual sales, the British seem to have managed to drive a wedge between the French and the other Europeans. According to figures put forward in Paris, out of the 10% of licenses that have so far been refused by the British, all, or almost, concern French boats. According to France Inter, there are 54 licenses for the 6 to 12 mile area off the British coast, 58 for the area around Guernsey and 56 for the area around Jersey … While, in the case of the two Anglo Islands -Normandes, British territorial waters begin just a few hundred meters from the shores of France.

At the end of last week, arguing that 40% of French requests had not been accepted by the British, Beaune spoke of “not a technical question, but a political choice”. “A friend, an ally and a responsible partner should fulfill his legal commitments,” he added. Thursday, at the end of his meeting with Frost, the French minister gave a layer: “If the dialogue does not work, we will move on to another phase. We will look at the evidence and there will be no naivety at the French level. “

In Brussels, the European Union has already sent a series of rather kind gestures to the Johnson government over possible derogations from the Northern Irish Protocol, one of the other Brexit fixing abscesses, which by moving it to the Irish Sea , was to prevent the establishment of a border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. On fishing, in recent days, European representatives have not followed ball in head the rantings of Macron and his ministers. The threat of a trade war with the United Kingdom, agitated in Paris, does not arouse enthusiasm in Brussels. In recent days, the Commission has used a tone a little different from that of the French, evoking a “new dynamic” allowing to consider developments in the negotiation and saying “hope that the positive commitment from all sides will soon be reflected. into concrete results ”.

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