Post-Brexit fishing rights dispute: UK and France both affected by dispute | Economic news
Brexit is over, and for many there is genuine relief that it is over.
But ongoing disagreements and post-treaty disputes have real costs for companies that say they feel disappointed and misled by the Brexit process.
The dispute over fishing rights and the threat of retaliation from the French have already cost a Kent oyster farmer tens of thousands of pounds in turnover.
Meanwhile, Sky News has learned that the Department of Transport has asked a Kent truck fleet, which is due to close shortly, to stay open a few more months over Christmas to help deal with anticipated additional pressure on a chain supply already tight.
“There are only a limited number of punches, as many punches as you can take as a business and get back up and start over,” said James Green, director of The Whitstable Oyster Company.
Mr. Green’s business is based in the picturesque town in North Kent, famous for its oysters.
He has been raising oysters for generations and is responsible for around a third of the UK’s total production.
But Brexit has already cost them dearly. New rules mean he can no longer export mature market-size oysters to France – those exports had accounted for around 50% of his orders, and that disappeared overnight.
He focused on building the domestic market, an encouraging though slow process, and continuing to export juvenile oysters to France.
This is still authorized because the juveniles are put back at sea off the French coast, to be harvested later by its buyers.
But last week, as the post-Brexit fishing line intensified, French threats pushed it back further.
In disagreement over the number of licenses granted to French trawlers operating in British waters, French President Emmanuel Macron issued an ultimatum, demanding that the United Kingdom grant more or face reprisal measures, including a ban on British vessels from land their catches in France and increased customs controls. on exported British goods.
These tightened restrictions could have included the removal of veterinary checks in France that are necessary for James to sell his oysters there. His buyers got nervous and canceled orders – he lost around £ 25,000 in just a few days.
“With farms you can’t stop, you have to keep going or the stock becomes unsaleable,” he said.
“There are a lot of costs involved in continuing with this process, so it’s frustrating.
“Coupled with COVID, coupled with Brexit, coupled with the water quality of Southern Water, this is the fourth thing in less than a year that has had a massive impact on our industry.
“You can’t take this core market out overnight and expect these companies to continue because they just aren’t.”
Mr Green voted for Brexit in 2016 and said fishing rights were his main motivation. But the reality was not as promised, and he said repeated assurances that his exports would not be affected were now misleading.
“I think the deal we got was very, very poor, very poor,” he said. “So I would probably change my vote, if I’m being honest.”
France’s threats were postponed this week, paving the way for talks between Lord Frost, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator and French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune.
Under the Brexit deal, French trawlers that traditionally fished between six and 12 miles off the coast of the UK would be allowed to continue to do so as long as they could provide proof that they were fishing there each time. year since 2016.
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While the French said too few licenses had been granted, the British said those that had not been approved had not provided sufficient evidence.
But despite all the smiles and handshakes from the cameras, the positions on both sides are still firmly established and no significant progress has been made.
The context on this side of the Channel is not just companies suffering, but an already stacked supply chain.
Some say a system still struggling with global delays and a shortage of truck drivers can’t cope with much more pressure.
Any further delays or customs checks at ports could well be seen and felt in Kent’s truck fleets.
Sky News has learned that the Department of Transport has asked one of those sites, Ashford International Truck Stop, which is due to close shortly in favor of a new, larger site next door, to stay open for a few more months over Christmas.
A feeling perhaps that preparations are underway for additional seasonal pressure.
On the other side of the Channel, there is another side of this story.
Laurent Merlin fishes for crab in Boulogne sur Mer. He has been fishing in British waters since the 1990s and his father did the same for years before him. But he hasn’t got a permit yet and he’s desperate.
“It’s frustrating because we’ve been waiting for 10 months now,” he said.
“If we do not get anything, we will have to react. Otherwise, we will not be able to continue. French waters have been overexploited, there are no more fish.”
The officials will speak again in the next few days and while they speak the threats are unlikely to be acted upon.
On different sides of these waters there are different sides to this story, but the ongoing disputes are costly.