Fishing: Ben Habib says relationship with France is ‘unbalanced’
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French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune and Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin gathered their counterparts from the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Germany and Ireland on Monday to discuss new ways to counteract Brexit Britain’s fisheries demands.
Mr Beaune, one of Emmanuel Macron’s closest allies, posted a picture of a video conference showing officials from across the bloc united to discuss the latest Brexit row led by France against the UK on fishing rights.
With the photo, he wrote: “With Annick Girardin, we brought together our counterparts from the countries directly concerned by fishing issues, to jointly defend our interests and our fishermen in the face of non-compliance with the Brexit deal by the UK.”
The meeting comes as France and Britain have been locking horns over fishing rights in UK waters.
Paris is furious at London’s rejection of all but 12 out of 47 French applications for new licences for small EU boats to fish in UK waters.
There have even been suggestions London is trying to blackmail Paris over the cross-Channel migrant crisis.
France does not accept the UK’s suggestion that the licence applications were rejected because the boats were unable to prove historic fishing activity in British waters, a condition contains within the Brexit fishing agreement signed by Boris Johnson last December.
A French official said: “We do not agree with this interpretation of the Brexit agreement.
“They are asking for proof that was not part of the deal.”
Last week, Mr Beaune vowed to retaliate against the UK’s decision.
He told RTL: “We understand the frustration of our fishermen and we share it because it is unbearable not to honour an agreement that has been signed.
“We will negotiate until the very last minute to solve this.
“We have said it at all levels in the UK that we cannot cooperate freely, on other matters as well, while they do not respect the signed Brexit deal.
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“We hope not to get to that point, but there are retaliatory measures that are possible under the Brexit deal.
“In trade, to British products, for example.
“In the energy field as well, there are many subjects on which the British need us, and there is an overall agreement.
“If they don’t respect the part on fishing, we can and will take action, collectively in the EU.”
Britain said it was open to further discussion with the boats it had rejected, adding that they had not submitted evidence of their history of operating in the waters which was needed to continue fishing in the 6-12 nautical mile (nm) zone.
“Our approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA),” a UK Government spokesperson said, referring to the free trade agreement between Britain and the European Union.
“As regards the 6-12nm zone, as set out in the TCA, EU vessels must provide evidence of a track record of fishing activity in those waters.”
Ms Girardin said Britain was not complying with the Brexit agreement.
“It’s a new refusal by the British to implement the conditions of the Brexit agreement despite all the work we have done together,” she said in a statement quoted by The Guardian.
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