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France Pushes Back Deadline for Fishing Row Sanctions
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France Pushes Back Deadline for Fishing Row Sanctions

Brexit is still having an impact on the UK’s overall trade relations with its European neighbors. While some concerns may be resolved as a result of the parties' post-Brexit agreement, others remain troublesome, resulting in increased disputes amongst allies. The UK fishing licenses are required for UE boats to enter. The fishing industry is an example, with UK fishing licenses being required for EU boats to enter.

An Ultimatum as a Means of Pressure

In order to move the lines, France initially issued an ultimatum for the resolution of the conflict. If no solution was found, retaliatory measures against the UK would have gone into effect on November 1st, including a ban on access to French ports for British fishermen who normally come ashore to land their catches, as well as increased border and health controls on goods from the UK. However, just hours before the deadline, on the sidelines of the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, French President Emmanuel Macron gave up applying at midnight the sanctions against the UK to "give a chance to discussions.” This announcement was warmly welcomed by the UK. "We welcome the announcement by the French government that it will not implement the  proposed measures as planned tomorrow," Downing Street said in a statement.

However, no lasting solution to the conflict has been found, and new threats have been raised. “If London ‘sticks to its position’, we will ask the European Commission to announce that a dispute has been initiated,” the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, said in early December. According to the French Ministry of the Sea, France has obtained 1,004 post-Brexit fishing licenses and is still expecting 104.


Starting Point of the Dispute

Prior to Brexit, fishermen from other EU member states could freely enter British marine waters. France got around 30% of its fish from there. According to statistics issued by the French Ministry in charge of fisheries, between 2011 and 2015, more than 100,000 tons of French fish were caught in these British waters.  To ensure that European fishermen do not lose access, the post-Brexit agreement includes provisions that allow fishing in a portion of these waters, a strip 6 to 12 nautical miles off the coast and near the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, subject to the acquisition of a fishing license, and this document ignited the powder.

To be able to obtain it, French fishermen must prove that they were already fishing in these  territorial waters between 2012 and 2016. What seemed to be a formality is in fact much more  complicated than expected. Many vessels fishing in this area during this period were not equipped with geolocation systems, allowing them to provide this proof. In addition, several operators have changed vessels, with older vessels being replaced by more modern vessels. Since January 1st, France has obtained 1,047 permits, according to the French government.  

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