Last month, reports came of French boats being denied post-Brexit fishing licenses for British and Jersey waters. As a result, tensions arose between the French and the British, with both sides claiming it was up to the other to back down.
On Sunday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron met to discuss the situation with the UK government saying it was “up to France” to step back from their threats. However, the French President said the ball was “in Britain’s court”, and he hoped there would be a positive response.
This was on Sunday, before the deadline for more permits to be granted for French Fishing boats to fish in British waters. That deadline is today, Tuesday 2 November.
If more permits were not granted, some British boats would be banned from some French ports. However, The BBC reported today that France was delaying any measures in retaliation to Britain after talks about the situation continued.
But how did a row overfishing lead to further tensions between Britain and France.
After Brexit, the trade deal between the UK and the EU agreed they would give each other’s boats permits if they could prove they had been fishing in those waters for years. But there have been disagreements about the amount of evidence needed and permits being denied by the UK and Jersey, which angered the French.
After permits were denied, the French began issuing threats to the UK, including limiting access to French ports, increased security checks on British vehicles both on and off the water, and cutting the electricity supply to Jersey or changing the tariff.
Brexit Minister David Frost consequently said the UK government was “actively considering” launching legal process against France under the Brexit agreement because of the threats from France.
Lord Frost described the language used by the French Prime Minister Jean Castex as “clearly very troubling and problematic”.
Yesterday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News: “The deal hasn’t been done. The French have made completely unreasonable threats, including the Chanel Islands and to our fishing industry, and they need to withdraw the threats.”
Truss also said: “This issue needs to be resolved in the next 48 hours.”
That brings us to today.
Environmental Secretary George Eustice said there has been “constructive talks” with France since Monday. Representatives from the EU Commission, France, Britain and the Channel Islands are currently negotiating to resolve the issue.
Brexit minister Lord Frost will also meet France’s European affairs minister on Thursday to discuss a range of Brexit issues. However, the French government has now said none of its measures will come into place until after this meeting has taken place.
This tension is not just about fishing boats. President Macron is months away from a presidential election, and many in Britain feel the threats coming from the French are unjustified and a political tactic as time ticks towards what may be a difficult election for Emmanuel Macron.
However, over in Paris, Macron has become increasingly irritated by the behaviour of British PM Boris Johnson and the deadlock being blamed on Johnson’s need to blame everyone else for the impact of Brexit.
Only time will tell how a resolution will come about and as talks continue, the fisherman on both sides of the sea will be preparing their sails.
Feature image credit: City A.M