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FISHING

French fishermen prepare to block trucks of British fish in protest at ‘sham’ Brexit deal

More than a hundred French fishermen are readying to block trucks carrying fish from the UK, in a protest against a Brexit fishing deal they have dismissed as "a sham".

French fishermen prepare to block trucks of British fish in protest at 'sham' Brexit deal
French fishermen preparing to blockade Boulogne-sur-Mer. Photo: Denis Charlet/AFP

Protesters spent Thursday night at a checkpoint where lorries carrying fish from Britain into the northern French ports of Dunkirk and Calais are subject to hygiene checks, now that the UK has left the European Union.

The fishermen set fire to pallets and tyres to stay warm at the Boulogne-sur-Mer checkpoint, in France’s busiest fishing hub.

No trucks from the UK were present, AFP journalists said on Thursday, with some having changed routes after hearing of the planned action.

British-flagged ships operated by Dutch companies, which often unload fish caught in UK waters at French ports, had also changed course towards Belgium, the harbour master’s office told AFP.

Despite the agreement between London and Brussels as part of the Brexit, more than two-thirds of fishermen in Boulogne-sur-Mer still do not have their licenses to travel to British territorial waters. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP)

A second group of protesters were settling in for the night in front of the Boulogne fish market.

“This night of action is a warning shot,” said Olivier Lepretre, head of the regional fishing committee.

“If nothing happens at the European level, we will shift up a gear.”

Lepretre said UK authorities had only granted licences to 22 out of the 120 boats seeking permission to fish between six and 12 nautical miles from the British coast.

Local mayor Frederic Cuvillier offered his support to the fishermen, calling for the EU to “wake up” and protect the European fishing industry from Brexit’s impact.

“The cruel truth is that there is no fishing deal,” said Cuvillier, a former Socialist fishing minister, describing the situation as “desperate”.

Fishing became a hugely fraught issue in negotiations late last year over an agreement to govern Britain and the EU’s post-Brexit trade relationship.

The UK had insisted it wanted to take back control of its waters while EU coastal states sought guarantees that their fleets could keep fishing in British waters.

London and Brussels eventually reached a compromise that will see European boats gradually relinquish 25 percent of their current quotas during a five-and-a-half-year transition period.

British fishermen, many of whom sell their catches in Europe and rely on rapid transport, have also been deeply unhappy with the post-Brexit situation, saying that extra checks and paperwork are threatening their livelihoods.

Member comments

  1. Unfortunate experiences on both sides of the Channel. On the one side the French authorities impose non-tariff barriers that make it virtually impossible to transport British caught fish into the EU (nobody wants rotten fish). On the other hand french fishermen want timely access to permits to fish in British waters.

    Unfortunately politicians create difficulties as part of their battles as individuals, one against the other in a pointless alpha-male/female contests. Essentially this is a version of spiteful office politics. This only becomes of interest to us when it adversely affect we mere citizens. Like wars, these bureaucratic spats are only caused by the spite of small minded politicians and bureaucrats.

    Do I sound as if I have a lack of respect for these people? Funny that.

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work. 

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