Post-Brexit fishing dispute between UK and France has escalated – Quartz


The UK threatened to sue France today (November 1) in a dispute over licenses to operate in UK territorial waters. France has said it will prevent British boats from docking in its ports if the UK does not grant additional fishing licenses to French vessels, in line with requirements set out in the post-Brexit trade deal. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK would give France 48 hours before taking further action.

While the current dispute is over a small number of fishing licenses for boats operating around the British island of Jersey, French officials call it an unprecedented example of the challenges that may arise for industries affected by trade disputes. post-Brexit.

How Brexit changed access to fishing waters

While the fishing industry only accounts for around 0.1% of UK GDP, access to territorial waters was a major concern for supporters of the 2016 UK referendum on leaving the EU. Politicians such as Nigel Farage, who took part in a flotilla alongside Scottish fishermen in the weeks leading up to the vote, argued that the country’s fishing industry had been severely affected by the Common Fisheries Policy of the EU, which allowed European fishermen to fish and enjoy significant shares. of fish in British waters since the 1970s.

At the same time, Britain exports a large part of the fish it catches, so losing the EU as a trading partner would be entirely detrimental to the country’s fishermen. After much discussion during post-Brexit trade talks, the two sides have reached a deal that promises to transfer 25% of fishing rights for UK waters from EU vessels to UK vessels over the next five years . By 2026, it is estimated that the UK fishing industry will bring in an additional £ 145million ($ 198million) per year from this policy.

But the trade deal, which was signed last December, also requires fishermen to have a license proving they have a history of fishing in UK territorial waters in order to continue doing so from October 30. These licenses would have turned out to be delicate for some French people. boats to get. The UK says it has granted fishing licenses to 98% of EU vessels that have applied for it, but there are nonetheless a handful of French vessels off the coast of Jersey – a regional committee head of fishing estimated at 20 or 30 – who did not receive a license.

Fishing in British waters has paid off for France over the years. A 2020 report from the UK’s Marine Management Organization found that the country’s fishermen collected more money on average than any other EU country between 2016 and 2016, the annual ‘landed value’ of the fish. caught in UK waters averaging £ 156million.

France sees an opportunity to make an example of the United Kingdom

With a number of French boats awaiting additional fishing permits, the French government has threatened not only to prevent British boats from docking in its waters, but also to prevent British trucks from unloading goods in ports. from Calais and Bolougne. He also threatened to restrict electricity to the Channel Islands, which depend on France for its energy supply.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex brought the dispute to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on October 28, with a letter stating that the disagreement was not just about access to fishing waters. Castex warned that if the UK remains ‘uncooperative’ on these issues, it could ‘set a precedent for the future’, potentially threatening the EU’s credibility and ability to defend its rights on agreements. international.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called France’s threats of retaliation “completely unwarranted”, while Foreign Secretary Truss suggested that a less noble factor could be at the root of the feud: elections next year, President Emmanuel Macron could probably use the support of the country’s fishermen.


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