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Explained: Post-Brexit fishing row between France and the UK

This week, France seized a British boat from French waters, a move that was denounced by the UK, which also threatened to undertake retaliatory action.

Brexit, fishing, France-UK fishing row, EU, France, UK, Explained: Post-Brexit fishing row between France and the UK, explainedFrench fishermen repair their nets at Boulogne-sur-Mer after Britain and the European Union brokered a last-minute post-Brexit trade deal, northern France, December 28, 2020. (Reuters)

A row between the UK and France has erupted over post-Brexit fishing rights, with France saying that it could stop British boats from landing if the dispute wasn’t resolved by early next week. In fact, late last year, these fishing rights were one of the sticking points in the post-Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK.

What is this row about?

As the UK became an “independent coast state” after December 31, 2020, Britain’s fishing industry, which makes up less than 0.1 per cent of the national economy, has been demanding greater access to the fishing grounds it currently shares with the EU – something the bloc has vehemently resisted.

What has triggered the row now?

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This week, France seized a British boat from French waters, a move that was denounced by the UK, which also threatened to undertake retaliatory action.

The Local reported that during the post-Brexit trade negotiations that were finalised days before the transition period ended on January 1, 2021, the fishing aspect was overlooked because “other aspects of trade are simply much more important for the economies of both the UK and the EU.”

At the moment, France is maintaining that Britain has not granted France enough licenses to operate in Britain’s water, while Britain is saying that it is issuing licenses to vessels that meet their criteria, Reuters reported.

French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin posted on Twitter saying, “The figure of 98% of licenses granted by the UK to Europeans is wrong. Only 90.3% were. Obviously, the missing 10% are for the French”.

France has also said that if the talks between the two countries did not make any progress, the former will put sanctions including extra customs checks on British goods from November 2.

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France now wants that all the provisions that are set out within the Trade and Cooperation Agreement are applied fully.

Article 497 of the agreement says:

“Where vessels have access to fish in the waters of the other Party:

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(a) each Party shall communicate in sufficient time to the other Party a list of vessels for which it seeks to obtain authorisations or licences to fish;

(b) the other Party shall issue authorisations or licences to fish.

Each Party shall take all necessary measures to ensure compliance by its vessels with the rules applicable to those vessels in the other Party’s waters, including authorisation or licence conditions.”

How were fishing rights shared before Brexit?

Fisheries in the EU – which included the UK until December 31, 2020 – are governed by the bloc’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Under the CFP, fleets from every EU member state can fish in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of all the other members, meaning the part of the sea that stretches up to 200 nautical miles from a nation’s coast, excluding its territorial waters – which end at 12 nautical miles from the coast.

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The EU as a bloc, and not individual countries, decides every December the volume of fish from each species that can be caught from the combined EEZs of its members, which are together considered a common resource. Fishing rights are then divided as per national quotas.

As long as the UK remained a part of the EU, the CFP has allowed fleets from the rest of the bloc to trawl in British waters, which are considered to be very rich.

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First published on: 29-10-2021 at 05:15:29 pm
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