France rejects UK fishing demands as Brexit deepens
PARIS – The French government on Monday criticized new regulations Britain declared for fishing in its waters near the Channel Islands, deeming them “null and void” in a conflict that escalated after Brexit .
France and Britain have increasingly clashed with the fishery in recent weeks, with French fishermen saying they were barred from operating in British waters due to difficulties obtaining licenses.
The French Fisheries Ministry said Britain had introduced “new technical measures” relating to licenses to fish off the Channel Islands which had not been properly declared to the European Union under the terms of the ‘Brexit deal.
“We consider that if the new requests for maritime zoning or fishing equipment are included in the licenses – when the European Commission has not been notified – they are null and void,” the ministry told AFP .
The ministry said it was adhering “strictly to the agreement” agreed to on fisheries under the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union on January 1.
“If the UK wants to introduce new measures, it has to inform the European Commission which in turn informs us – this allows us to engage in a dialogue,” the ministry said.
“These new technical measures are not applicable to our fishermen in the current state of affairs.”
Fishing has proven to be one of the thorniest issues in the frantic negotiations that led to Britain’s departure from the EU, with London keeping tight control of its waters as a symbol of its sovereignty.
Britain on Friday authorized 41 vessels equipped with Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) technology – which helps locate vessels – to fish in the waters off the island of Jersey, which is a British Crown dependency autonomous.
But this list was accompanied by new requests “which have not been arranged or discussed (with France), and of which we have not been informed,” said the French Ministry of Fisheries.
The measures effectively create new zoning rules for waters near Jersey – “where ships can and can’t go”, as well as how many days fishermen can spend at sea and with what machinery, added the Ministry.
France said it had expressed its dissatisfaction with the surprise measures with the European Commission.
Commission spokesperson Vivian Loonela said the EU was engaged in “intense joint work” with the UK government to resolve the issue.
“Any conditions must be notified in a timely manner to give the other party enough time to comment or adapt,” she said of the new UK requirements.
“Moreover, such conditions cannot be discriminatory towards our fishermen.”
Dimitri Rogoff, chairman of the Normandy regional fisheries committee in northern France, said if French fishermen continued to be stranded in the waters off Jersey, there should be retaliatory measures.
“Jersey fishermen should not be able to land at Granville,” he said, referring to the nearest French port to the island.
French fishermen launched a protest movement last month, blocking trucks carrying fish from Britain to France, over complaints that few of their vessels have been granted licenses to operate in British waters.
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