Brexit row explodes: UK fishing boss erupts at ‘highly belligerent’ France in license war

Ireland 'privately worried' over EU fishing stance says expert

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The latest escalation in the row came on Thursday when the European Union told Britain the UK and France must resolve their ongoing row over fishing licenses by December 10. Speaking to the French senate on Wednesday, France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune said: “If dialogue doesn’t bear fruit with the United Kingdom, we will defend our interests. Our objective remains the same: to ensure the agreement we signed is respected, to defend our fishers. We will stand by them always.”

The UK has been left unfazed by the ultimatum, with a Downing Street spokesperson telling “We have licensed nearly 1,700 EU vessels overall; our approach to licensing has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

“We continue to work with the Commission and the French authorities and will consider any further evidence provided to support remaining licence applications.”

But Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), the trade organisation representing British fishermen in relation to European fishing regulations, has been left furious by France’s conduct in the ongoing row.

Speaking before the latest comments from Mr Beaune, he told “There seems to be many points of friction currently between France and the UK.

“The licensing issue is something that should be resolved at the technical level.

“That it was escalated by highly belligerent language from France owes much to French domestic politics and that the French seem to have convinced themselves that the TCA (Trade and Cooperation Agreement) represents the status quo, when it does not.”

France had been left furious after the UK approved just 15 permits out of 47 applications for small French fishing boats to operate in its territorial waters.

Jersey, which relies on France for 95 percent of its electricity supply, also issued 66 full licenses and 31 temporary permits but refused 73 applications.

Tensions between the two countries then surged significantly late last month when a UK trawler was detained in a French port, before being released days later.

Mr Deas is also concerned over the impact a potential trade war between the UK and EU could have on the country’s fishing industry.

Lord Frost wants large parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol overhauled – demands the EU has so far refused to cave to.

This has led him to reiterate a threat of the UK triggering Article 16 of the Protocol, which would potentially see the deal agreed with Brussels torn apart.

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But the EU has threatened to retaliate with a vengeance with fears of a destructive trade war looming that could potentially range from stopping UK fishermen fishing in EU waters to putting tariffs on UK fish going into the EU.

Mr Deas insisted any triggering of Article 16 would be felt by fishing industries in the UK and France but warned an escalation ion trade retaliation would result in “adverse consequences for both parties”.

He said: “We have concerns about what the consequences would be for trading fish and shellfish into the EU market but the consequences would fall on all business in the supply chain.

“There are many businesses in the supply chain on both sides of the channel that depend on the supply of raw material from UK waters.

“Triggering Article 16 if it happens will not be driven by fisheries considerations but if it is the fallout would be felt on both sides of the Channel.

“Escalation in trade retaliation, or zero tolerance enforcement, would result in adverse consequences for both parties.”

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