In recent days, the clash between the governments of France and the United Kingdom over fishing rights in the English Channel, which has been going on for several months, has become more open and hostile, to the point that it may lead to the risk. to put him in danger Other important trade and political agreements. This is despite the fact that the issue of fishing in the Channel is not economically important for both countries, and concerns a limited number of fishing vessels: it is above all a symbolic and principled clash, which clearly highlights the difficulties in the relations between the UK and the EU after Brexit.
Within days, France seized a British fishing boat, and shortly thereafter, the United Kingdom summoned the French ambassador to ask for an explanation. On Sunday, between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, there was a far-reaching clash at the G-20 in Rome, with the two leaders accusing each other of misconduct and violating agreements made at the time of Brexit.
The two countries also gave each other an ultimatum: France said that if the UK did not give up fishing rights by November 2, it would introduce various measures to limit trade, while the UK said that if the situation was not resolved. within 48 hours Legal action will be taken through the EU’s dispute resolution mechanism.
The dispute between France and the United Kingdom arises from the fact that, prior to Brexit, French trawlers historically operated in British waters (the reverse was also true, but to a much lesser degree). This was especially true for certain areas, such as the waters around the island of Jersey, which is located a few kilometers from the French coast, but is officially dependent on the United Kingdom.
After Britain left the European Union, it became necessary to find an agreement on the division of hunting grounds. Fishing rights were one of the most discussed topics in the entire negotiation, and it was ultimately decided that the UK would license European vessels operating in the area to fish in its waters and that they could demonstrate that their business had been carried out continuously in the previous years. This evidence was particularly difficult for the smaller French fishing vessels to provide, which lacked the technology to track their actions and routes.
In all, she has written The financial times, the United Kingdom licensed 1,700 European fishing vessels, but refused to grant them to about 200 vessels, most of them French. According to the French government, this means that the British government has disqualified 40 percent of French fishing boats that applied, and that would be an unacceptable offense (but the British government disputes this data).
From an economic point of view, the question is almost irrelevant, since it concerns a few dozen (or at least a few hundred) small fishing boats. However, fishing rights have acquired enormous symbolic value, and have become an important issue for voters in both countries, on which governments have so far refused to come to an agreement. For Boris Johnson, the issue of fishing rights means strong support from the more conservative tabloids in a time of crisis, while Macron does not want to be weak six months after an election, with many northern provinces at stake.
Tensions between France and the United Kingdom have been running for months, and are back in force last week, after French authorities seized a British fishing boat and forced it to dock in the port of Le Havre. France also threatened tougher retaliation, such as intensified health checks for trucks passing through the Channel Tunnel and various restrictions on British fishing vessels.
“The ball is in the UK’s court,” French President Emmanuel Macron told the G20. “We made them a proposal. But if the British continue to talk and act as if they don’t want to make a deal, even if it has already been signed, and if they don’t start giving in, things will get ugly. We can only defend our poachers.” Johnson responded with similar words. It is up to France to decide whether it wants to abandon its troubling threats.
The letter that French Prime Minister Jean Castix sent last week to the European Commission to demand action on the issue also contributed to the worsening climate. In the letter, among other things, Castix wrote: “It is necessary to clearly show to European public opinion that compliance with signed agreements is non-negotiable and that there are more disadvantages to leaving the Union than staying there.” According to Boris Johnson, the message will show that France wants to “punish” the UK for leaving the union, even if that is not what Castix wrote.
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