Brexit fishing row deadline: Why the EU and France issued an ultimatum to reach UK deal

Brexit: Fishing industry was 'sacrificed' by government says Deas

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Ever since the UK left the EU last year, one of the key issues it’s had to deal with is how it controls its fishing waters off the coast of the UK and Channel Islands. France has claimed that the UK is not complying with its side of a post-Brexit deal with the EU, and is denying nearly 100 French fishermen licences. So, what’s exactly going on?

Several weeks ago, the European Commission set a deadline for December 10, to resolve the ongoing dispute over post-Brexit fishing licences between the UK and France.

However, on Thursday the UK stated that it does not recognise the deadline that has been set by the bloc and that it is working to a separate time frame.

Speaking on Thursday (December 9), the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I’m not aware of certainly any communication we’ve had from the French government, certainly not to the Prime Minister.

“There’s a technical process still ongoing based on evidence rather than set deadlines.

“We’ve never set a deadline. I recognise they themselves have set one but it’s not one we’re working to.”

George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, is expected to hold further discussions, today, with the EU Environment Commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevicius, as they attempt to come to an agreement.

The row is in relation to a facet of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – struck between the UK and EU post-Brexit.

This particular detail is to do with the licences that are now required, by EU member states’ boats, in order to fish in UK and Channel Island waters.

France alleges that the UK has not handed out enough licences to its fishermen – reportedly up to 100 are waiting to be approved.

However, the UK Government says that only those lacking the correct documentation have yet to be signed off and that the majority of licences have been awarded.

France’s Sea’s Minister, Annick Girardin, has warned that the French Government will fight for every licence.

Meanwhile, Clement Beaune, the French Minister for Europe, has described the dispute as a problem which exists between the UK and the entire EU, rather than just France.

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If today’s deadline is not met by the UK he has called on the bloc to take retaliatory measures.

He told French radio network RTL: “It was the European Commission that told the British – so all of Europe together – that if you don’t make big gestures with a lot of licences on December 10, we are no longer in a European dialogue.”

Mr Beaune has also said that “all options are on the table” with regards to measures that France itself can use against the UK – including a ban on UK trawlers unloading their hauls in French ports and tighter customs checks to disrupt trade across the English Channel.

What are the rules of the TCA deal?

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement the following rules were established:

  • For some years to come EU boats will continue to fish in UK waters
  • However, UK fishing boats will receive a greater proportion of the fish that come from UK waters
  • This shift in share will gradually be phased in between 2021 and 2026 – most of the quota will be transferred during 2021
  • Following this period there will be annual negotiations to determine how the catch is split between the UK and EU in the future
  • After 2026 the UK will hold the right to completely expel EU boats
  • Should the UK opt for this though the EU could respond with taxes on exports of UK fish to the EU or by denying UK boats access to EU waters

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