Brexit: UK fishermen sent warning by French fishing chief
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In the latest step on the UK in a bitter fishing row, the most senior officer in France’s fishing ranks spoke out claiming many are finding it “very difficult to live”. French fishermen say they are being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licenses.
They began a protest movement last week by blockading trucks bringing fish from Britain to France, saying that only 22 boats out of 120 from the Boulogne-sur-Mer port had obtained a licence for British waters.
But the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) disputed the claims stressing 87 French boats had received licences for fishing within six to 12 nautical miles from the UK coast.
EU and UK officials are also yet to reach an agreement on setting joint catch limits for fishermen in the Channel.
Jean-Luc Hall, Director General of the National Committee for Maritime Fisheries and Marine Farming, the professional fishing body in France governed by private law, said: “We have negotiations that are dragging on especially for TACs [total allowable catches, note] and quotas for the current year.
“Usually, they are set at the start of the previous year: four months after the start of the year. the year 2021, we still have no visibility.
“For some companies, it is still very difficult to live.
“We imagine that if all the licences are not issued today, it is because it also constitutes a means of pressure on the part of the British authorities.”
The pressure is the latest setback for Defra officials after they walked away from negotiations for a bilateral deal on fishing quotas in 2021 with Norway.
Both sides had mutually agreed that it was “time to put an end to the negotiations”.
In a statement, the Norwegian Government said: “Brexit has undoubtedly created a series of challenges for the Norwegian fishing industry.
“It has proven extremely difficult to get an agreement with the UK on access to (fishing) areas and a quota exchange for 2021.
“In regard to the possibility of reciprocal access to fishing quotas in our respective territorial waters in (fish) stocks that we share, our views were too far apart to reach an agreement.”
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No agreement means that Norwegian fishermen will not be able to fish in British waters and their British counterparts will not be able to fish in Norwegian waters this year.
The thorny issue of access for EU fishermen to Britain’s rich waters was resolved with a compromise: EU boats will gradually relinquish 25 percent of their current quotas during a five-and-a-half-year transition period.
After that there will be annual negotiations on the amount of fish EU vessels can take from British waters.
If the UK limits EU access or catches, Brussels can retaliate with tariffs on UK fishing products or other goods – or even suspend much of the trade agreement while keeping fair-competition rules intact.
The British fishing sector has also complained about red tape preventing the export of catches to the European continent.
In January, to protest delays to shipments, British exporters drove lorries to central London in a sign of tensions with the UK government of Boris Johnson.
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