The EU tried on Friday to wrap up discussions with London on the post-Brexit fishing rights conflict during the day, clashing with British camps at their positions despite threats from Paris to initiate litigation in the event of a further failure.
“This is a technical procedure based on tangible elements, not deadlines. The intense discussions in recent days have been constructive but have not yet concluded,” a British government spokesman told AFP.
Under the agreement signed in late 2020 between London and Brussels, European fishermen can continue to work in British waters as long as they can prove that they were fishing there previously. But for more than eleven months, the French and the British have been arguing about the nature and scope of the supporting documents to be provided.
Outside the Mediterranean, around a quarter of French catches in volume (around 20% in value) come from British waters, rich in fish and generating 650 million euros in annual sales for EU fishermen.
Under pressure from Paris, the Commission asked London in late November to resolve the fishing license dispute by Friday, December 10. On Thursday night, the UK schematically rejected this opportunity, while Paris demanded a European arbitration.
“The Commission sent us new items yesterday and this morning, and we are reviewing them with Jersey: this is a good thing, but our decisions will continue to be guided by the quality of these items,” the British spokesman observed.
If London “remains in its position, we will ask the European Commission, during the weekend, to announce that a dispute is taking place,” confirmed the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clment Beaune, on Friday.
“There will not be, I say it very clearly, all the licenses to which we are entitled this afternoon,” he lamented. But “if the British say today + we give a few dozen additional licenses + as a gesture of goodwill (…), we will take it into account,” he explained.
– “No visibility” –
France has obtained 1,004 post-Brexit fishing licenses and “is still waiting for 104,” according to the French Minister of the Sea.
While welcoming the constructive work done with the Anglo-Norman island of Guernsey, which issued around forty licenses in early December, French Sea Minister Annick Girardin on Thursday lamented the issuance of drip permits by Jersey and deplored the UK’s “delaying tactics”.
On the French shores of the English Channel, the fishermen are exhausted. They reiterated that they had provided “all required documents” to show that they had been fishing in British waters previously, in the reporting periods required by London and the Channel Islands.
It is in the area between 6 and 12 miles off the British coast where the greatest number of French licenses are missing. Discussions are stumbling, in particular, over the fate of 40 replacement vessels – new boats bought by fishermen to renew their fleet – files that London refuses to consider a priority.
“We have no visibility, storm Loc Escoffier, owner of Saint-Malo (Saint-Malo) who has three ships, would like to replace one and change another to” hydrogen or hybrid propulsion for ecological transition “. A ready boat. Sailing It is 1.5 million euros, you have to be sure of yourself ”, he explained.
On this fisheries issue, the tone has already been raised several times: a blockade of Jersey by French fishermen last May; French threats of sanctions in October; and more recently, the blockade by French fishermen of the ports and the freight terminal of the Channel Tunnel, through which 25% of trade flows between the United Kingdom and Europe.
Beyond the issue of licenses, that of fishing methods and quotas also promises to be very tough. “If France is delayed for political or diplomatic reasons,” warned Bruno Dachicourt, of the national union of fishermen CFTC, the fishermen do not exclude “new actions”.
By Maaz KHAN – 2021 AFP
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