World, Europe

UK shoots back at France over post-Brexit fishing row

UK says 98% of EU vessels given fishing licenses, while France claims its fishermen not granted enough licenses under Brexit deal

Karim El-Bar   | 28.10.2021
UK shoots back at France over post-Brexit fishing row

LONDON

Reacting to France’s announcement that it had detained a British fishing boat amid an escalating fishing rights dispute, the UK on Thursday said 98% of the EU vessels who have applied to the UK for fishing licenses have been approved, many of them French.

The French government claimed its fishermen have not been granted half the licenses they need to fish in British waters under the Brexit agreement.

Tensions between France reached a new high on Thursday after two British vessels were penalized for fishing in French waters.

Speaking in parliament, British Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “They were on the list that was provided by the MMO (Marine Mammal Observer) to the European Union. The European Union, therefore, did grant a license. We are seeing some reports that they were subsequently withdrawn from the list. It's unclear why that might have been at the moment."

Eustice added that he had spoken with Virginijus Sinkevicius, the European Commission's maritime affairs and fisheries commissioner.

“The UK stands by its commitments in the trade and cooperation agreement,” Eustice added. "All of our decisions have been fully in line with this commitment.”

Andrew Brown, the director of Macduff Shellfish, which owns the detained scallop trawler, told Sky News: “Access to French waters for the UK scallop fleet is provided under Brexit Fisheries Agreement. Macduff's fishing activity is entirely legal.”

He said the trawler seems to be “another pawn in the ongoing dispute between the UK and France” over post-Brexit fishing rights.

"We are looking to the UK government to defend the rights of the UK fishing fleet and ensure that the fishing rights provided under the Brexit Fishing agreement are fully respected by the EU,” he added.

​​​​​​​Earlier, the British government condemned France’s actions, with a spokesperson saying: "France's threats are disappointing and disproportionate, and not what we would expect from a close ally and partner,” adding that if they are carried through, they “will be met with an appropriate and calibrated response."

Tightening of controls

Earlier Thursday, French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin announced that one UK ship had been detained for fishing without a license while a second was fined for obstructing an inspection by French gendarmes.

The detained ship was not on the license lists granted to the UK by the European Commission and France, and its captain risks sanctions, France said.

Girardin said, “We must enforce this (fishery) agreement. We have fishing rights, we must defend them and we will defend them," adding that France could ban British fishing boats from some French ports if no solution is found.

Clement Beaune, minister for Europe, said that France has to “speak the language of force” because the “British government understands only that.”

European Commission’s stance

The European Commission also weighed in on the dispute, saying: “Our Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the UK is clear: vessels which were fishing in these waters should be allowed to continue.

“All French vessels entitled to a license should receive one. Fishing license applications are a top priority and we are working hard to support this process. We will continue discussions with the UK and France in the coming days to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”​​​​​​​

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