Following the requirement for UK fishermen to have IUU catch certificates, and the disruptions in France earlier this year over fishing licenses, the industry continues to suffer since Brexit.
French officials have stated that there will be bans for UK fishing boats in some ports if French fishermen are not granted additional licenses to fish in UK waters. These measures are currently ready to be implemented from November 2nd.
In addition to checks on goods that are arriving into France by road, the French have also confirmed that there would be more checks on goods arriving by road from Britain. However, there is no further information on what these could be.
Why haven’t the French received fishing licenses?
During the negotiations on trade agreements during the Brexit transition period, it was agreed that Britain would grant fishing licenses to vessels that were proven to be fishing in UK waters between 2012 and 2016 (before the Brexit vote).
Many French vessels claim that they are eligible for licenses; however, they cannot provide the GPS tracking data to support their applications.
Despite the lack of data not being the responsibility of the UK, France have demanded that their vessels are granted fishing licenses so that they can continue to fish in UK waters.
What are the UK doing about French fishing licenses?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been in talks with French President Emmanuel Macron over fishing licenses since Brexit, with the issue taking considerable time out of both leaders’ schedules.
This week, the Boris Johnson has met with Emmanuel Macron in Rome, whilst they were both attending the G20 summit. The intention of both sides was to “de-escalate” the row ahead of the threatened start date of November 2nd for additional checks in France.
Since the meeting, France have stated that they believe the UK will be resolving the issue in the coming days. However, Downing Street have advised that this is incorrect, and that France need to back down from their threats as the UK are acting within the trade agreement.
The UK stands by their position that French vessels will be granted licenses if they meet the criteria for approval. Many licenses were issued at the start of the year to those that qualified.
Will the new checks at France be legal?
France remains a part of the EU so they are bound by the post-Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). Any additional barriers to trade could trigger dispute mechanisms within the agreement that would mean involving the rest of the EU to settle. Their Europe minister, Clement Beaune, tweeted with assurance that the plans were within the confines of the TCA.
Whilst this does mean that France are limited in what they can do, they remain an essential channel for UK exports into the EU. As such, any disruptions put in place could still heavily impact traders, especially when more customs clearance procedures come into place in 2022.