Jersey warns of dangers of giving in

France withdrew its threats to retaliate against the UK in the licensing dispute last week, as the sides continued to negotiate over whether more French licences can be granted, reports Tim Oliver.

More talks were due to take place last Thursday (4 November) after the EU failed to back the French moves and President Macron said it would withdraw measures due to be implemented last Tuesday while negotiations continued.

The UK had earlier threatened to take legal action against the EU on the grounds that French actions would breach the terms of the Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).

France had threatened to block UK boats from landing their catches in designated French ports and tighten health and customs checks from 2 November in protest at the refusal by UK authorities to grant more licences to French boats.

Just hours ahead of the French deadline, President Macron told reporters at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow that talks had resumed on the basis of a proposal he had made to Boris Johnson.

“The talks need to continue. My understanding is that the British were going to come back to us tomorrow with other proposals. All that will be worked on,” he said.

“We’ll see where we are tomorrow at the end of the day, to see if things have really changed.” DEFRA secretary George Eustice welcomed the French decision to step back from implementing its threats. He said the UK wanted to ‘de-escalate’ the issue and had ‘an ever-open door to discuss any further evidence France or the EU might have on any additional vessels they’d like to have licensed’.

“I think there’s going to be a very important meeting on Thursday between Lord Frost and his opposite number, not just on fisheries but a wider range of issues as well,” he said.

Boris Johnson said the UK would continue to work to resolve the dispute, but was adamant that the UK would not make any more concessions to France in the talks.

Asked by reporters at the COP26 summit whether he had offered more generous terms to President Macron to keep talks alive and whether the UK had changed its position on the French licences issue, he said: “The answer is no. We are working very, very closely with our French friends and partners on the things that matter most to the people of the world, and that is tackling climate change and reducing CO2.

“And by comparison with that hugely important issue, the ones you mention [fishing] are really vanishingly unimportant.”

The UK has granted licences to 98% of EU vessels that have applied to fish in UK waters, but the dispute centres on access for French under-12m boats wanting to fish in the UK 6-12nm zone. The UK initially granted only 12 licences, but this is now reported to have risen to 18.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.

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