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France threatens ‘reprisals’ over Brexit fishing deal

France on Tuesday threatened "reprisals" against Britain unless a post-Brexit deal on fishing rights is implemented, the latest sign of cross-Channel tensions over the highly sensitive sector.

France threatens 'reprisals' over Brexit fishing deal
French fishermen stand near a banner during a protest action against the delay in granting licenses to access British waters at the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer on April 22nd. (Photo: Denis CHARLET / AFP)

French fishermen say they are being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licenses.

They began a protest movement last week by blockading trucks bringing fish from Britain to France, saying that only 22 boats out of 120 from the Boulogne-sur-Mer port had obtained a licence for British waters. 

“We are asking for the whole deal, nothing but the deal, and for as long as it has not been implemented… we will carry out reprisals in other sectors if it is necessary,” French Europe Minister Clément Beaune told the BFM Business channel on Tuesday.

British authorities have contested the French industry’s claims, saying last Friday that 87 French boats had received licenses for fishing within six to 12 nautical miles from the UK coast.

Fishing rights were one of the most complicated questions to negotiate in the Brexit deal agreed between Britain and the European Union for the UK’s full departure from the bloc on January 1st.

Britain made fishing rights a key issue in the negotiations, with control over access to its waters seen as a sign of British sovereignty.

READ ALSO: France warns UK: ‘Our fishermen are as important as yours’

Beaune said that French reprisals could be in the form of holding up approvals for British financial service operators to work in the EU.

“The United Kingdom is expecting quite a few authorisations from us for financial services. We won’t give any for as long as we don’t have guarantees on fishing and other issues,” he added.

“It’s give-give. Everyone needs to respect their commitments, if not we will be as brutal and difficult as is necessary as a partner,” he said.

The British fishing sector has also complained about red tape preventing the export of catches to the European continent.

In January, to protest delays to shipments, British exporters drove lorries to central London in a sign of tensions with the UK government of Boris Johnson.

Member comments

  1. Licenses for British financial service operators to work in the EU that bring in millions compared to a few fishermen that bring in, well fish. Says it all really.

  2. It’s the EU that has been trying to force financial services based in London to move to the EU by refusing ‘equivalence’. If they deny them registration, the business will stay in London. And so will the capital. Seems like a case of ‘do as I say or I’ll shoot myself in the head’. As for the French fishermen, they have to apply via the EU and many of them cannot meet their requirements.Consequently, the licence applications don’t even reach the UK single licensing authority.

  3. Clement Beaune is perhaps not the most convincing guy when threatening brutality and difficulty ?

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READER QUESTIONS

Why some Brits in France are facing bigger tax bills since Brexit

Over the summer people living in France have received their tax bills, and some Brits who are residents here will have noticed that their bill is larger than usual - here's why.

Why some Brits in France are facing bigger tax bills since Brexit

Brits who live in France and make a tax declaration here, but have income from the UK, may have noticed that their tax bill has increased this year – here’s why and whether you can challenge the increase. 

Brexit

Yes, this is Brexit related and it refers to social charges on non-French income. The standard rate for these charges are 7.5 percent for income from an EU country and 17.2 percent for income from a non-EU country.

The tax bills received over the summer relate to the annual French tax declaration filed in April 2022, covering the 2021 tax year. In other words, the first year after the end of the Brexit transition period.

Social charges

Social charges are levies with a social purpose introduced in France in the 1990s to finance the country’s complex social security system.

If you have a French payslip you will already be familiar with them, and they actually make up the bulk of deductions from salaries, significantly more than income tax.

READ ALSO How to understand your French payslip

One of the big questions is whether France’s social charges are actually a ‘tax’ – the government repeatedly insists they’re not, for all that they look like a tax and are paid like a tax. 

The position on French social charges has changed several times in recent years, sometimes in response to court action all centred on whether this money that government deducts from your income can be called a ‘tax’ or not.

Katey Murray, at The Spectrum IFA Group, explained: “Article 29 of the amended Finance law of 2012 extended social charges to rental income from French properties and capital gains on properties for people who are not French tax resident.

“In 2015, a Dutch national challenged the fact that he was paying social charges in France and social security contributions in the Netherlands. The case went before the ECJ, which ruled these levies were similar to social security contributions and therefore contrary to European law.”

France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, confirmed the ECJ’s ruling. “French tax offices then, if a claim was made to them, reimbursed undue social charges,” Murray said.

“However, the French Government stated that these claims could only be made by someone covered for their healthcare by the system of another European country (EU, EEA or Switzerland) and not someone covered by a non-European health system. 

“This was confirmed by the ECJ for a French national living in China in a case in January 2018.”

Foreigners in France

And it’s this ‘healthcare system’ distinction that has become the key detail for Brits in France, clarified by a court ruling from March 2022 on the details of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. 

Social charges are currently set at 7.5 percent for income from an EU country, or 17.2 percent for income from a non-EU country. So income from the UK jumped to the higher rate at the end of the Brexit transition period.

However the ECJ ruling on healthcare cover is the key bit – essentially if you are already contributing to another European country’s social security system, you benefit from the lower rate.

This mainly affects two groups – Brits living in the UK (and therefore covered by the NHS) who have income in France, and Brits who are living in France and who have an S1, which states that their healthcare costs are covered by the NHS.

S1 holders are mainly British pensioners living in France, but the scheme can also apply to other groups including students and posted workers. 

Brits who are living in France and are covered by the French health system pay the higher rate on income from the UK. 

Technically the 7.5 percent rate is a ‘social levy’ rather than the prélèvements sociaux.

The ‘social levy’ is not charged on pensions, so if you are an S1 holder who receives a British pension, you will not have to pay any social charges at all, while certain types of property income may also be exempt from social charges.

Tax

As we stated above, social charges are not a tax (although they are deducted from your income by the tax office).

Taxes on income from the UK is covered by the bilateral dual-taxation treaty between France and the UK, which states that you don’t have to pay tax in France on income that you have already paid tax on in the UK. 

So the first thing to check on your tax bill is whether deductions relate to impôt (tax) or prélèvements sociaux (social charges).

Challenge your tax bill

So what to do if you think you have been incorrectly charged on income from the UK?

If you are an S1 holder, it’s a case of telling the tax office that you benefit from the lower 7.5 percent social levy, rather than the 17.2 percent social charge.

Murray said: “You can state that you are not subject to social charges by ticking boxes 8SH/8SI on your tax form (2042 form) or, if you have been charged at the higher rate, you can claim them back on your personal page on the impots.gouv.fr website.”

If the over-charge relates to a different issue – for example you have been charged both tax and the social charge or charged on exempt income – your first step is talking to the tax office, either in person or over the phone.

READ ALSO How to challenge your French tax bill

This article is a general overview of the tax rules and is not intended as a substitute for financial advice, if your financial affairs are complicated you are always better off getting professional help from an accountant who specialises in international taxation.

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