Ten EU nations back France in post-Brexit fishing row

France and ten other EU nations call for a common front against Britain over post-Brexit fishing licences after Macron called for help in piling pressure on the UK

  • Countries including Germany, Spain and Italy joined the French in condemning the British response to fishing row as ‘incomplete and inappropriate’
  • France has accused Britain of violating the post-Brexit trade agreement it signed by denying licences to French fishermen
  • But Britain said licences denied to boats where fisherman unable to provide evidence of their traditional grounds

France and ten other EU members have called for a common front against Britain over its handling of a row with Paris over post-Brexit fishing licences in its waters.

Countries including Germany, Spain and Italy joined France in condemning the British response to fishing license applications as ‘incomplete and inappropriate’. 

France has accused Britain of violating the post-Brexit trade agreement it signed by denying licences to French fishermen who have historically fished in UK waters.

But London says licences have only been denied to boats where skippers were unable to provide evidence of their traditional grounds.

The statement by the 11 EU nations came after a meeting of EU agriculture and fisheries ministers in Luxembourg – and a week after French President Emmanuel Macron called for more pressure to be applied to Britain in the dispute.   

France and ten other EU members have called for a common front against Britain over its handling of a row with Paris over post-Brexit fishing licences in its waters. Pictured: French fishermen empty a fishing net in the North Sea

Their statement came after a meeting of EU agriculture and fisheries ministers in Luxembourg – and a week after French President Emmanuel Macron called for more pressure to be applied to Britain in the dispute

French Fisheries Minister Annick Girardin welcomed Monday’s statement and said the French and European response to Britain’s position would be made public in the second half of October and could include retaliatory measures. 

Giradin has previously raised the possibility of cutting electricity supplies to Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey. 

It is the latest threat from across the channel in a dispute over access to rich fishing grounds from next year. 

‘This joint declaration marks an important step because only a collective response will allow the European Union to contemplate serenely the continuation of the negotiations with our British partner,’ said Girardin in a statement, adding that the objective is to ‘push the UK to respect the Brexit deal’.

The move comes after France rallied its EU partners for a joint stance and action if necessary if London would not grant more licences for small French fishing boats to roam close to the UK crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey that are by France’s Normandy coast.  

In France’s parliament last week, Prime Minister Jean Castex accused Britain of reneging on its promise over fishing.

‘We see in the clearest way possible that Great Britain does not respect its own signature,’ he said, adding that ‘all we want is that a given word is respected.’

French Fisheries Minister Annick Girardin (pictured right) welcomed Monday’s statement and said the French and European response to Britain’s position would be made public in the second half of October and could include retaliatory measures

France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune lashed out at the UK’s Brexit ‘failures’ and said that France’s trawlermen would not ‘pay the price’ for the UK’s decision to leave

In a relationship where both sides often fall back on cliches about the other, Castex was harking back to the centuries-old French insult of ‘Perfidious Albion,’ a nation that can never be trusted. 

Meanwhile, French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune added to this late Monday. He said: ‘The European Union scrupulously implements the agreement it reached with the United Kingdom. We expect the same from Britain.’ 

French fishing barons last week gave Britain two weeks to grant them more access to its waters or face being cut off from crucial Christmas supplies.

They handed down the ultimatum a day after skippers vowed to block the port of Calais and the Channel Tunnel unless their demands were met.

Beaune backed the move and threatened to cut off supplies of Christmas turkeys unless continental fishermen are allowed to work in British waters.      

‘They failed on Brexit. It was a bad choice. Threatening us, threatening our fishermen, will not settle their supply of turkey at Christmas,’ Beaune told BFM TV.

‘We will hold firm. The Brits need us to sell their products,’ he added. 

French boats were free to fish in the six-to-12 mile zone when the UK was in the EU, but now have to prove that they previously did so. France says they should keep the same level of access, accusing Britain of breaching the Brexit trade deal.  

French fishermen have also said they could block the northern port of Calais and Channel Tunnel rail link, both major transit points for trade between Britain and continental Europe, if London does not grant more fishing licences in the next 17 days. 

They previously blockaded Jersey over access to Channel Island waters. 

French Fishermen previously blockaded Jersey over access to Channel Island waters.

Beaune said France had asked for 450 fishing licences but had only received 275. ‘We’re 40 percent short, but we insist on those 450,’ he said.

‘Britons need us to sell their products, including from fishing, they need us for their energy, for their financial services and for their research centres,’ Beaune said.

‘All of this gives us pressure points. We have the means to modulate the degree of our cooperation, to reduce it, if Britain does not implement the agreement,’ he said.

‘If they don’t do their share, then we won’t do 100 percent of our share either.’

The Brexit trade agreement, signed by both sides last year, reduces the catch for EU trawlers in British waters by 25 per cent over five-years. After that expires, access will be negotiated on an annual basis.

The French government wants other EU members to support their push for Britain to be brought before an arbitration panel set up to thrash out post-Brexit disputes.

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