Brexit - Fishing

France warns UK of reprisals if post-Brexit fishing deal not implemented

Fishermen empty a fishing net aboard the Boulogne-sur-Mer based trawler "Nicolas Jeremy" in the North Sea, off the coast of northern France, December 7, 2020.
Fishermen empty a fishing net aboard the Boulogne-sur-Mer based trawler "Nicolas Jeremy" in the North Sea, off the coast of northern France, December 7, 2020. REUTERS - PASCAL ROSSIGNOL

France has said it's prepared to take "reprisals" against Britain unless a post-Brexit deal on fishing rights is implemented, as European Parliament votes on Tuesday on ratifying the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement.

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French fishermen say they are being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licenses.

They began a protest movement in northern port of Boulogne-sur-Mer last week, by blockading trucks bringing fish from Britain to France, saying that only 22 boats out of 120 from the port had obtained a licence for British waters.

"We are asking for the whole deal, nothing but the deal, and as long as it has not been implemented...we will carry out reprisals in other sectors if necessary," France's Europe Minister Clement Beaune told the BFM Business channel on Tuesday.

British authorities have contested the French industry's claims, saying last Friday that 87 French boats had received licenses for fishing within 6 to 12 nautical miles from the UK coast.

On Monday, French maritime minister Annick Girardin headed to Boulogne-sur-Mer to reassure the protesting fisherman. She announced an aid package of 100 million euros within the next six months, as part of an EU-approved plan to support the post-Brexit fishing industry.

Girardin also assured industry representatives that 21 new licenses, to allow French boats to fish in British waters, would soon be issued.

'As brutal and difficult as necessary'

European Parliament is to vote Tuesday on ratifying the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement (TCA) that defines post-Brexit relations with Britain.

Fishing rights were one of the most complicated questions to negotiate in the Brexit deal agreed between Britain and the European Union for the UK's full departure from the bloc on 1 January this year. 

Britain made fishing rights a key issue in the negotiations, with control over access to its waters seen as a sign of British sovereignty.

Beaune said that French reprisals could be in the form of holding up approvals for British financial service operators to work in the EU.

"The United Kingdom is expecting quite a few authorisations from us for financial services. We won't give any for as long as we don't have guarantees on fishing and other issues," he added.

"It's give-give. Everyone needs to respect their commitments, if not we will be as brutal and difficult as is necessary as a partner," he said. 

The British fishing sector has also complained about red tape preventing the export of catches to the European continent.

In January, to protest delays to shipments, British exporters drove lorries to central London in a sign of tensions with the UK government of Boris Johnson

(with AFP)

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