France suspends retaliation against UK in fishing row as talks continue

French President Emmanuel Macron announced that retaliatory measures against Britain over an escalating row about fishing rights will not be implemented on Tuesday. The UK's Brexit minister will travel to Paris on Thursday for further talks.

A French fishing boat off the coast of Jersey.
A French fishing boat off the coast of Jersey. Photo: Sameer Al Doumy/AFP

Discussions “will continue” between France, the UK and the European Commission, Macron said on the sidelines of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, ruling out the application of retaliatory measures because “it’s not while we’re negotiating that we’re going to impose sanctions”.

The UK’s Brexit minister David Frost said he had accepted an offer from French Europe Minister Clément Beaune to meet in Paris. “I look forward to our talks in Paris on Thursday,” Frost tweeted.

 Announcing the invitation to Frost to come for “in-depth discussions”, Beaune tweeted that Britain had sent “the first signals… to accelerate exchanges”.

France had vowed to subject British imports to tighter controls starting from Tuesday, in a bitter row over fishing rights that has grown since Brexit took full effect at the start of the year.

It had said it would prevent British fishermen offloading their catches in French ports, after Britain and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey declined to issue dozens of French boats with licences to fish in their waters after Brexit.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED Why are France and the UK fighting about fish?

In a statement, a UK government spokesperson added: “We welcome the French government’s announcement that they will not go ahead with implementing their proposed measures as planned tomorrow.

“As we have said consistently, we are ready to continue intensive discussions on fisheries, including considering any new evidence to support the remaining license applications,” the spokesperson said.

“We welcome France’s acknowledgement that in-depth discussions are needed to resolve the range of difficulties in the UK/EU relationship.”

Macron said he had “confidence in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take seriously” the French proposals and for the discussions to lead to a “result”.

“For 10 months the results have been too slow, if this new method allows us to have a result, I hope we will give it a chance,” he said.

Britain has also threatened to step up inspections of EU fishing vessels.

The head of the regional fisheries committee of France’s northern Hauts-de-France region, Olivier Lepretre said on Monday he feared that fishermen would be turned back from British waters “over the slightest issue.”

If provoked, he said, French fishermen, who have staged protests in Channel ports in recent months, would “show some muscle” and carry out further action.

France says that dozens of French fishermen are waiting for licences to ply waters between six and 12 miles from British shores, and in particular around Jersey.

After talks with Johnson on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Rome on Sunday, Macron said the two leaders had agreed to work on “practical and operational measures” but insisted: “The ball is in Britain’s court.”

Johnson however denied that Britain’s position had changed, insisting France must back down first.

A day earlier he had complained to EU chief Ursula von der Leyen over the “completely unjustified” French threats and raised the possibility of invoking a Brexit dispute tool for the first time, drawing the EU into the row.

Member comments

  1. Talks with Frost😮 Does frost even know what this is about? Judging by his previous endeavers, I would imagine he will muddy the waters even more. Of course all the British guttersnipe press with the Daily Mail at the forefront will be stating that France has surrendered once again.

  2. It seems the lessons of Trump have not been learned…you cannot apply normal diplomacy to an egomaniac/idiot (take your pick).

    The UK has always been a ‘have your cake and eat it’ style government that will demand and take all it can from international relations…so the softly softly diplomatic approach results in exactly the situation we see at the moment – the UK constantly demanding more, more and more, throwing tantrums and issuing threats…

    It would be nice to see the EU and France stop pandering to them and actually tell them, in suitable diplomatic speach, to bog off once and for all.

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French teachers blame Brexit as schools cut trips to UK

The number of French pupils crossing the Channel on school trips - even daytrips - to the UK has plummeted post-Brexit, with teachers blaming the additional cost and paperwork involved.

French teachers blame Brexit as schools cut trips to UK

“I wanted to, but I gave up. It’s dead,” middle school teacher Murielle Bourré told local paper La Voix du Nord.

Schools in northern France used to do regular day-trips to the UK, since it’s just a short ferry-trip away, as well as longer visits, but many teachers say they have stopped this since Brexit.

School trip organisers in northern France have noticed a large drop-off in the number of school trips to the UK. “Before Covid, we used to organise about 40 trips a year. This year, it will be about 10,” said Edward Hisbergues, a school trip organiser from Maubeuge in the Nord département.

According to Hisbergues, Ireland is now the more straightforward option because it is an EU Member State, although trips there are more expensive.

Since October 1st, 2021, any European citizen wanting to visit the UK has needed to hold a passport when previously a national ID card was sufficient. 

Since the ID card can be used for travel anywhere within the EU, many French people don’t have passports, meaning that parents need to apply for a passport for their children in order for them to go on a school trip.

For French children aged up to 14, a passport costs €17. For children aged between 15 and 17, it costs €42. An adult passport costs €86. It is often enough for hard-pressed parents to think again, especially for day trips to cities in the south-east of England, such as London, Canterbury, or Brighton.

Meanwhile, children at French schools who hold non-EU passports require a tourist visa, at a further cost of £100 – it also requires a trip to the British Embassy in Paris.

One possible solution – a collective passport, allowing groups of French children to travel to the UK on one document – has reportedly been discussed in government, but plans have not yet seen the light of day.

Pre-Brexit, around 10,000 school trips a year came from France, representing a direct annual input into the UK economy of £100m, according to travel companies.

Detailed post-Brexit figures are not yet available – since travel was heavily restricted by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 – but anecdotal evidence from trip organisers suggests that the number has fallen.