UK-France fishing row still has ‘flammable material’ says Deas
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Talks to settle the fishing row that has erupted between the UK and France are believed to have ended in stalemate. Paris had threatened to slow down trade with the UK, but reports suggest No 10 did not believe the country would follow through. This week, Brexit minister David Frost spent around 90 minutes meeting France’s Europe minister, Clément Beaune.
Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said: “We don’t believe the French are planning to move forward with the previous threats they’ve made.”
Mr Beaune, however, said France wanted to give dialogue a chance.
But, he added that “the option for retaliatory measures remains open”.
The Scottish-registered scallop dredger Cornelis Jan was detained by France as part of the row but has since been released.
The dispute over licences flared up last month after the UK and Jersey denied fishing permits to several French boats.
France then moved to threaten the UK with a series of hostile measures unless more licences were granted by 2 November.
However, French President Emmanuel Macron suspended the threats ahead of negotiations.
Barrie Deas, Chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), said the dispute was symptomatic of the failures of the part of the Brexit deal that dealt with fishing.
He said France “regarded” itself as the “big winner” out of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
However, he told Express.co.uk: “But it was sold as the status quo to them by the French government, and it’s not the status quo.
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“There are significant changes including this licence issue, the fact that vessels have to demonstrate that they’ve fished within the UK’s 12-mile limit before getting a licence to fish there.
“And there’s also the issue of regulatory autonomy.”
He claimed: “I think French fishermen probably were misled, the UK industry was misled by our Government in being led to believe that we would have the status of an independent coastal state, and have the quota shares and access arrangements that would go with that.
“But when push came to shove, a trade deal was considered more important.
“I think the French on their part oversold it to their industry.
“There are also others in the EU that aren’t very happy: the Irish aren’t happy as they’ve lost quotas, as well as others.”
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It is unclear when the UK and France will reach an agreement.
The conflict revolves around the rights of French fishers in the six to 12-mile zone around the UK shore, and Jersey and Guernsey.
In order to secure a fishing licence in the zone, Eu boats — mostly French — have to prove they have previously worked in the area.
British sources have said some applications received lacked that proof.
But France denied this claim.
Mr Beaune recently told reporters: “There have been no applications made without evidence of past activity, often very detailed.
“We are not asking for something for nothing.”
The UK has since said there had been no change in the British position, denying France’s claims of a deliberate move to refuse French fishing crews licences.
A UK government spokesperson said Lord Frost and Mr Beaune “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”.
Following the meeting, Mr Beaune told reporters that France had an issue with the UK’s method of implementing the rules.
He said: “We consider that their demands are supplementary to those in the [post-Brexit trade] treaty.
“What we want now is a positive spirit from the British, goodwill … to accept the proofs we have provided.
“We want to return to the spirit and the letter of the agreement.”
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