Home World News France and the UK defuse fishing row with ‘positive’ talks

France and the UK defuse fishing row with ‘positive’ talks

France and the UK defuse fishing row with ‘positive’ talks


French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune welcomes dialogue, indicating all options are still ‘on the table’.

France and the United Kingdom have moved to defuse their dispute over fishing, with sanctions off the table for now but all options still possible should talks fail, French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said.

Beaune spoke on Thursday after meeting British Brexit minister David Frost in Paris after France and the UK came to the brink of a cross-Channel trade war over fishing.

At the heart of the dispute is the number of licences London allocated to French boats after the UK left the European Union. France says many are missing, while London says it is respecting the deal.

Beaune said there were still “significant differences” between the two sides but he hailed the meeting as “useful and positive”, with more talks due next week.

He also welcomed a new “state of mind”, adding that he had agreed with Frost to intensify talks on the licences.

“All options are still on the table,” Beaune said, “as long as dialogue seems possible … we are giving it a chance, with no naivety … and with a requirement to see results.”

Frost will now travel on to Brussels for talks with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic on Friday, a UK government spokesperson added.

‘Work to do’

France had threatened to step up checks on trucks and produce from the UK and to bar British trawlers from French ports. But it pulled back on Monday to allow a fresh attempt to negotiate a solution.

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France will take stock of the situation next week, Beaune said, noting “there is still a lot of work to do” and France was still missing about 200 fishing licences.

The UK echoed some of Beaune’s comments, with both sides saying the ministers would talk again early next week.

“The French government have been clear they are not looking to proceed with those threats … in the coming days,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said. “I think both sides are keen to have further discussions.”

The UK and France have argued for decades over the fishing grounds around their Channel coasts, an issue which also dogged years of Brexit negotiations before the UK completed its withdrawal from the EU at the end of 2020.

The latest dispute erupted in September over the number of post-Brexit fishing licences. France seized a British scallop dredger, which has since been released.

Reasserting British control over its fishing grounds was a central plank of the case for Brexit that Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented to voters. The issue is also sensitive for French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of next year’s presidential election.



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