Brexit - Fishing

French fishermen to get up to 30,000 euros in aid under Brexit trade deal

Fishing had been the subject of bitter last-minute wrangling in the post-Brexit trade deal.
Fishing had been the subject of bitter last-minute wrangling in the post-Brexit trade deal. © AFP/Nicolas GUBERT

The French government has announced measures to support fishermen and fishmongers, including up to 30,000 euros in individual aid, after the European Union and the United Kingdom reached a post-Brexit trade agreement.

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"Fishermen and wholesalers will be able to benefit from a flat-rate aid of up to 30,000 euros depending on their dependence on products caught in British waters," the French fisheries ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Access to Britain's rich fishing waters was a major sticking point in the post-Brexit talks, despite the sector representing only 0.2 percent of UK’s GDP in 2019. But fishing remains an important issue both in UK and in several EU states, including France.

EU gives up quotas

Under the deal, the two sides reached a compromise that will see European boats gradually transfer 25 percent of their current fishing rights to the UK fishing fleet during a transition period of five and a half years.

By June 2026, it is estimated that UK boats will have access to an extra £145 million of fishing quota every year.

Boris Johnson promised the UK’s fishing community "a big £100 million programme to modernise their fleets and the fish processing industry" to help them manage this extra fish.

After the transition ends in 2026, there will be annual negotiations on the amount of fish EU vessels can take from British waters. If Brussels is not satisfied it can impose economic measures against the UK. However, the UK will also have the right to withdraw EU boats' access to UK waters.

Aid for French fishing sector

The French government plans to provide compensation over a limited period for part of the turnover losses of local companies dependent on British waters.

Other measures include investment aid under a recovery plan and "fleet exit plan" will be available for vessels dependent on British waters that want to stop activity.

A quarter of the fish caught by French boats came from UK waters.

Fish caught by EU countries in British waters amount to some 650 million euros per year. According to a European Parliament report, the fishing fleet of only eight EU states account for 40 percent of fish caught in Britain’s exclusive economic zone.

French, Belgium (50 percent of its catch), Ireland (35 percent), Danish (30 percent), and Dutch (28 percent) fishing vessels are particularly dependent on fish caught in UK waters.

EU companies own UK quota

At present, the UK fishing fleet has the right to catch just under half of the annual fishing quota in UK waters.

UK vessels caught under 100,000 tonnes of fish, worth roughly £106 million, from EU waters in 2019.

The issue is complicated by the fact that parts of the UK fishing quota have been sold off by skippers to British-flagged boats owned by foreign companies, mainly based in the EU.

In England, for example, more than half the quota is under foreign ownership.

UK fishermen also sell a large proportion of their catch to the EU.

In 2019, the UK fishing industry exported more than 333,000 tonnes of fish to the EU. That accounts for nearly half of the total catch of the UK fishing fleet and roughly three quarters of total fish exports from the UK.

The Scottish government said the agreement announced on Thursday was "a bad deal for fishing". First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that "major promises" made by the UK government on fisheries had been broken.

In Ireland, Prime Minister Micheál Martin said that the Irish fishing industry will be disappointed by the EU-UK trade deal, which he called “the least bad version of Brexit possible”.

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