France fishing row: Expert calls on EU to 'sort' issue
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Ben Habib, the former Brexit Party MEP, was speaking in a week in which both Mr Macron and close ally Clement Beaune goaded the UK as they pressed London over the issue of fishing rights for French boats. First the French President said Britain was back-pedalling on commitments enshrined in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) be refusing to grant sufficient fishing licences, and claiming: “It is not a big sign of your credibility.”
Mr Beaune, France’s Minister for European Affairs, then posted a pointed tweet after a video call with Irish opposite number Thomas Byrne in which he boasted of “defending together the application of signed agreements and European solidarity, always being united, firm and constructive.”
Eyebrows were raised given the remarks came in the run-up to COP26, given expectations of a truce prior to the crunch environmental summit in Glasgow.
Mr Habib told Express.co.uk: “They’re not de-escalating. They have no intention of doing so.
Initial attempts at doing so had been “met by no resistance” from the UK government led by former Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr Habib said.
He added: “Nothing changed under Boris Johnson.
“Every time they have bullied, we have taken the knee.
“The bullying has been encouraged and become entrenched by British timidity.
“That pattern continues and will not stop unless and until our government finds the backbone to stand up to them.”
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Mr Habib stressed: “The danger here is the EU will end up going too far before the British eventually stir into action.
“That action will then likely have to be very severe.
“The situation is becoming quite dangerous.”
In a stark illustration of Mr Habib’s point, Jersey fisherman Jack Bailey on Wednesday accused some of his French counterparts of having “no respect” and cutting shellfish pot lines amid anger over Brexit.
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Speaking aboard his boat, White Waters, he said piles of red tape have put the island’s fleet at a disadvantage – and accused French fishermen of sabotage.
He added: “What infuriates me the most is for me to sell my stuff into Europe I’ve got to fill out 10 bits of paper.
“It’s got to get all checked by the vet, but he can fish alongside me, go back to France that day and not have any of that paperwork.”
Mr Bailey, who has worked on fishing boats since he was five, claimed there was “discrimination”.
He added: “I know they’ve got to make a livelihood as well, but it’s just got to be a fair playing field – it’s got to be level.
“If one end’s gaining more, the other’s going to be pissed off – that’s what a lot of the Jersey fleet are feeling like now.”
Referring to deteriorating relations with French fishermen, he explained: “We’re going north and south and they’ll be shooting their nets east and west and they’ve just got no respect, they’ll just cut it.
“You’ll be missing pots out of your string.
Asked how the seabed is divided up, Mr Bailey said it is a “gentlemen’s agreement”.
He added: “You don’t touch his pots, he don’t touch yours.
“Sometimes he’ll shoot his pots over the top of you, you just rejoin them, just out of respect.
“The last couple of years with the French they haven’t bothered, they’ve just gone ‘oh you’ve started this, we’re finishing it’.”
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