George Eustice slams Beaune's 'inflammatory' language
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Clement Beaune told France Inter radio: “The European Commission has mobilized more: there are negotiations between France, the United Kingdom and the Commission until December 10. If there has not been a massive gesture on licensing, we will stop this dialogue.”
Mr Beaune, Emmanuel Macron’s European Affairs Minister has been pushing for a zero tolerance policy against the UK’s demands for weeks in a bitter battle over post-Brexit fishing agreements.
He is also part of Mr Macron’s push for more influence over the European Union (EU).
A Government spokesman said the Environment Secretary George Eustice had a constructive discussion with Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius on Wednesday and technical discussions with the European Commission and French authorities would continue this week.
He added: “Our approach to fisheries licences is evidence-based and completely in line with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
“In total, we have licensed nearly 1,700 EU vessels to fish in our waters. Where vessels have provided the required evidence we have issued licenses and will continue to do so.”
Speaking on French news channel CNews in October, Mr Beaune warned the British only “understand the language of force”.
Maros Sefcovic, vice president of the European Commission, met with Mr Beaune earlier this month who then took to Twitter to describe how the pair had discussed the application of the UK-EU agreement in particular over the issue of the fishing licenses.
He added: “European unity, full respect for our agreements, relentless defence of our fishermen”.
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The EU is mediating in talks between the UK and France which complains of lack of access for French fishing boats to British waters.
Paris says that the UK and Jersey have not granted as many licenses as French fishermen are applying for.
Mr Sefcovic has himself issued a stark warning to the UK to conclude negotiations over fishing rights on time and in a satisfactory manner.
Two Royal Naval river-class patrol boats, HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, were sent to Jersey in May after French fishermen threatened to blockade a harbour on the island in protest.
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France had said it could stop UK boats landing at its ports, setting a deadline of the Monday after the start of the COP26 climate summit.
However, France climbed down after the UK Government threatened to retaliate with “rigorous” checks on EU fishing activities just hours before the deadline.
President Macron agreed to return to discussions between the two nations and the European Commission. He also ruled out any reprisals during the negotiations.
But French fishing boats blocked ports including Saint-Malo and Calais on 26 November after France’s leading fishermen’s union vowed to deny access to and from ports as well as the Eurotunnel to step up pressure on the UK.
Of the almost 1,700 licences issued to EU vessels by the UK Government, 117 were issued for EU boats which had proof of a track record, to fish in a six to 12 nautical mile zone.
A total of 35 smaller vessels have not been issued with permission but the Government says it remains open to more discussion and evidence.
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