Fishing row: Brexit minister meets French counterpart to try to resolve fishing dispute

General view of the Scottish-registered scallop dredger, the Cornelis Gert Jan, which was held in Le Havre, following a dispute between the UK and France over the number of licences issued to French fishing vessels by the UK.
General view of the Scottish-registered scallop dredger, the Cornelis Gert Jan, which was held in Le Havre, following a dispute between the UK and France over the number of licences issued to French fishing vessels by the UK.

Lord Frost and France’s Europe minister have met in an attempt to calm a dispute over fishing, however no breakthroughs have been announced.

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No breakthroughs have been announced following a meeting between Brexit minister Lord Frost and France’s Europe minister in a bid to calm a dispute over fishing.

A UK Government spokesperson said Lord Frost had met Europe minister Clement Beaune in Paris on Thursday.

A statement released said “they discussed the range of difficulties arising from the application of the agreements between the UK and the EU”.

It said: “Both sides set out their positions and concerns.”

The Government said Lord Frost would meet European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic in Brussels on Thursday and he would speak to Mr Beaune again next week.

Fisherman Jack Bailey, 25, lands crabs and lobster on his boat, White Waters, during a days fishing off the coast of Jersey.
Fisherman Jack Bailey, 25, lands crabs and lobster on his boat, White Waters, during a days fishing off the coast of Jersey.

Meanwhile, on Twitter Mr Beaune said he had been happy to meet with Lord Frost to “relaunch the necessary dialogue and ensure the implementation of our agreements”.

It comes after France threatened sanctions over what it perceives as a refusal to issue licences to its trawlers to operate in UK waters.

The UK Government has insisted the overwhelming majority of applications for licences have been granted.

French president Emmanuel Macron delayed the imposition of punitive measures while talks between the UK, France and the European Commission take place.

The French government has insisted the measures – which could include a ban on British trawlers landing their catches in French ports and tighter customs checks to hamper cross-Channel trade – remain “on the table” if a deal cannot be reached.

French Government spokesman Gabriel Attal underlined the threat of sanctions remained: “We will see what comes with those meetings.

“As you know, the control measures that we announced are still suspended but all options are on the table, and we may need to implement those measures if we do not reach an agreement.”

On Wednesday, he said: “We are just waiting for one thing: for the UK to respect the deal that they signed.”

Under the Brexit deal, European Union boats which can show they have fished in British waters in at least four of the years from 2012 to 2016 are eligible for a licence.

Some 1,831 applications for licences have been received, with 1,793 issued.

The main source of contention has been for smaller vessels, the under 12-metre category fishing between six and 12 nautical miles of the coast, where 50 applications have been received – all from French vessels – but just 19 have been issued.

Meanwhile, a British trawler which was impounded by France amid the dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights has arrived in the UK after being released by French authorities.

The Scottish-registered scallop dredger Cornelis Gert Jan left Le Havre on Wednesday evening after being held there since last week, when France accused it of fishing in its waters without a proper licence.

Jondy Ward, (left), the skipper of a Scottish-registered scallop dredger, the Cornelis Gert Jan, which is being held in Le Havre, leaves the Court Of Appeal Of Rouen, following a dispute between the UK and France over the number of licences issued to French fishing vessels by the UK.
Jondy Ward, (left), the skipper of a Scottish-registered scallop dredger, the Cornelis Gert Jan, which is being held in Le Havre, leaves the Court Of Appeal Of Rouen, following a dispute between the UK and France over the number of licences issued to French fishing vessels by the UK.

The fishing row is just one of the issues Lord Frost will be raising during his talks in Paris and Brussels.

The main dispute between the UK and European Union is over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Talks are continuing between the UK and EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the part of the Brexit divorce deal which avoided a hard border with Ireland.

The deal effectively keeps Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market for goods, resulting in some checks for products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain, which left the single market.

Lord Frost has claimed the conditions for using Article 16 – allowing parts of the deal to be suspended – have been met because of the difficulties being caused.

The UK wants an end to the European Court of Justice’s oversight role, something that Brussels has said is impossible.

European Commission executive vice-president Frans Timmermans told ITV’s Peston: “I think Mr Frost knows very well that this is not possible for the European Union.

“I know he knows full well that whenever the internal market is involved, the ultimate arbitrator is the European Court of Justice.”

But he said the European Commission had been “bending over backwards” to reach an agreement with the UK on the protocol.