SHARE
COPY LINK

BREXIT

Is Brexit about to rewrite the rules for fishing on the English Channel?

With tensions already high between the French and British fishing fleets after a confrontation over scallops, Brexit could change the game completely by redrawing battle lines in the Channel.

Is Brexit about to rewrite the rules for fishing on the English Channel?
French fishermen are anxious to avoid a Brexit that could shut them out of British territorial waters, while in British ports, trawlermen hope such moves could reinvigorate their fishing industry.
   
The “Scallop Wars” in August saw French boats attack British ones in the Seine Bay off the Normandy coast.
   
Paris had banned French boats from scalloping in the area between May and October to preserve the stocks.
   
So when British boats exercised their rights to go for them, a French flotilla mustered, hurling rocks and smoke bombs and ramming the UK trawlers.
   
“The British started fishing a month and a half before us. They come with triple our capacity. It's maddening,” said scalloper Pierre Marie, second-in-command on the Bonne Saint-Rita.
 
READ ALSO:
   
Marie was unloading his catch at the crack of dawn in Port-en-Bessin-Huppain, a small fishing town on the Normandy north coast of France.
   
Marie was involved on the night of August 27 when around 35 French boats chased off the British trawlers, some of which were damaged.
   
“It's not the first time that we've kicked them out. Every year it's the same nonsense,” he told AFP.
 
French hard Brexit concerns
 
But the running battles do not necessarily mean that all French fishermen want to see a clean-cut Brexit, because that could involve Britain re-imposing exclusive fishing rights over its waters.
   
“It's a sensitive subject. We have to see what the alternatives would be,” said Marie who, like several others in the town, is hesitant on the topic.
   
For the scallopers, who rarely fish in British waters, “a hard Brexit would be very good news,” said Olivier Eudes, who runs the local fish auction.
 
“They would crack open the champagne because the Channel would be split down the middle and the British ships could not fish in our waters,” he said.
   
But it is a different story for deep sea trawlers, which take 60 percent of their catch in British waters.
   
Manuel Evrard, head of the Normandy Fishermen's Organisation, said: “A lot of the set-up here is based around the deep sea trawlers.
   
“They are the ones bringing in the high volume of fish that keeps the auctions going.
 
Scallop wars: France tells UK fishermen to keep out of contested waters
Photo: AFP
 
“It is important to stay united,” he said.
   
British and EU negotiators are at loggerheads over the conditions of Britain's withdrawal from the EU next year and there is still no agreement on the shape of future economic ties after Britain leaves.
 
Admiration for French rivals
 
Even though it has cost the British fishing fleet, the French instinct for unity is respected on the other side of the Channel.
   
“I admire their solidarity. They all stick together and generally get their way because they cause mayhem if they don't,” said Drew McLeod, 50, the skipper and owner of the Van Dijck trawler in Brixham harbour.
   
The British scallopers involved in the Seine Bay clashes are based in the town, home to 17,000 people, on the Devon coast, southwest England.
   
Many boats in Brixham harbour carry pro-Brexit banners reading “No fishing sell-out” showing the UK surrounded by its vast territorial waters.
   
Opinion polls suggest at least 90 percent of British fishermen voted for Britain to leave the EU.
 
McLeod has his hopes for Brexit, but fears British control of the seas will be given up as part of a trade-off.
 
Scallop wars: British fishermen ask for protection from the French
Photo: AFP
   
“I don't think they will draw a line down the middle of the Channel. If they did, that would work fantastically for us. But they won't,” he told AFP.
   
“Quotas will probably end up being used as a bargaining chip.”
 
Brexit opportunity
 
A 53-year-old Brixham lifelong fisherman standing on the quayside, who did not want to give his name, said Brexit was a “massive opportunity” but predicted: “We will get sold out.
   
“What would be nice is control of our own waters. But there's not a chance of that. Zero.”
   
Mark Wise, a research fellow from Plymouth University in Devon, said Britain's strong maritime history was a key part of its island nation identity.
 
Although the fishing industry only accounts for less than one percent of the European Union's gross domestic product, it “makes a lot of noise and has a political impact,” he said.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

VISAS

‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres

Appointments

Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said. 

SHOW COMMENTS