France preparing to move against U.K. in latest fishing row

The fishing row between the U.K. and France over licenses has been causing tension between the countries for nearly a year now.

France are now looking to escalate the dispute further, with plans for blockades, talks of customs clearance legislation, and formal complaints to be proposed to the EU.

Oliver Lepretre, head of the Hauts-de-France regional fisheries committee, told the Telegraph: “We have made it clear: protests are planned, following on from the blockade of Breton and Norman ports that took place on November 26th. Actions will target British products.”

Brussels gave a deadline of Friday 10th December for French vessels that qualified for a license to be granted them. The U.K. commented that this deadline was not the U.K.’s and that the issuing of licenses was a technical process, not one led by a deadline.

18 new licenses were granted by Friday, after new evidence had been submitted by the vessel operators, and 7 more are under consideration.

Despite the issuance of new licenses, and there not being sufficient evidence for other unlicensed boats to qualify, France has declared that this is not enough.

France’s Europe minister, ClĂ©ment Beaune, commented that the U.K. could issue a few dozen more licenses as a “gesture of goodwill” so that the fishing row could simmer back down to talks instead of further action. 

Why is there confusion over fishing licenses?

The fishing row is over the issuing of fishing licenses to French vessels, allowing them to fish in U.K. waters. 
 

To qualify for a fishing license, the vessel must have been fishing in U.K. waters before Brexit. To prove this, vessel are required to provide GPS data between 2012 and 2016.

Many French vessels claim to have been fishing in the U.K. before Brexit, but have been unable to provide the necessary evidence that would allow them licenses now. 

Despite the fishing row with France, the U.K. have maintained the position that there were terms agreed upon before Brexit, and that they are abiding to them. Any vessels that meet the criteria will, and have been, provided with a fishing license.

How has the fishing row been managed so far?

France have repeatedly disrupted the U.K. during the fishing row, threatening to ban British vessels from French ports, add additional customs clearance protocols in place for goods arriving from Britain, cut off energy supply, and take legal action through the EU.

Physically: 

French protesters blocked U.K. shipments from entering the seafood processing centre at Boulogn-sur-Mer earlier this year.

French vessels formed a blockade in Jersey, which the U.K navy needed to deploy to in order to disburse it.

A British trawler was unnecessarily detained in France despite being registered to fish there.

The U.K. have held talks with France over the dispute, but remain firm that licenses have been granted where criteria has been met. 

There have been warnings that the actions of France are not what is expected of a close neighbour and ally, and that any escalation would require retaliation.

What happens next?

The French president is under pressure from fishing communities to assist with licenses, and the presidential election is nearing in France, so this will likely continue to escalate as a part of the presidential campaign.

The U.K. Government have commented that any additional actions against the U.K. would be unilateral, as France do not have the backing of other EU countries. As a whole, nearly 1700 fishing licenses have been issued to EU vessels. The withholding of licenses for French vessels is not discriminatory, as vessels that meet the criteria have been granted licenses.

If you are concerned about how the fishing row could affect your business, please contact us for more information.

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