French and British agree to hold more talks over post-Brexit fishing row

French fishing crews off the coast of Jersey
French fishing crews off the coast of Jersey. Photo: Sameer Al Doumy/AFP
Britain and France on Thursday agreed to hold more talks next week to solve a row on fishing rights that has threatened to turn into a post-Brexit trade war, after senior ministers met in Paris.

Although there was no indication of a breakthrough after Brexit minister David Frost met French Europe Minister Clément Beaune, the desire to keep talking signalled a renewed interest in dialogue.

Beaune said he he had been “happy to receive Lord Frost in Paris to relaunch the necessary dialogue and ensure implementation of agreements”.

However after the meeting, the French side said there were still “significant differences”.

“Today we did not resolve the question of fishing licences,” Beaune told reporters, adding that Paris still wanted to “give a chance” to dialogue even if “all the options are open and all the options are possible”.

Speaking after the meeting, a UK government spokesman said: “They discussed the range of difficulties arising from the application of the agreements between the UK and the EU. Both sides set out their positions and concerns,” adding they “expect to speak again early next week”.

Frost will now travel on to Brussels for talks with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic on Friday, the spokesperson added.

The dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights has strained already troubled relations between Paris and London following Britain’s exit from the European Union and has threatened to escalate into a full-blown trade war.

READ ALSO Why are France and the UK fighting over fish?

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While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday made it clear that London’s position had not changed there are signs both sides favour diplomacy to avoid the situation worsening.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Wednesday emphasised that “all options are on the table” even after Macron put off implementing trade sanctions to give the talks a chance.

France has threatened to ban British boats from unloading their catches at French ports and to subject all British imports to inspections.

Under a deal agreed by Britain and the EU late last year, European fishing vessels can continue to ply UK waters near to the coast if they operated there in the past.

But Paris says dozens of French boats have had their applications to fish off the coast of the UK and the UK crown dependency of Jersey rejected.

The total volumes affected are tiny in terms of overall France-UK bilateral trade.

In the run-up to the talks, Frost tweeted official UK figures which London maintains show almost all licences requested by French fishing vessels have been issued, contrary to statements by French officials.

The Local’s columnist John Lichfield takes a closer look at the numbers in the Twitter thread below.


Member comments

  1. John Lichfield’s twitter feed gives a clear analysis (debunking) of Frost’s diingenuous use of misleading statistics. Sadly typical of the Johnson government. Which is what the dispute is really about – can France and the EU trust anything the UK government says or says it will do on brexit? The evidence is not there, so far. But it suits Johnson to keep an EU dispute going so he can continue to blame it for the problems brexit is causing the UK. For a UK citizen in France, it’s embarrassing.

    1. Speak for yourself, I’m also a British citizen in France and it’s not in the least bit embarrassing, the whole episode is transparent political posturing by Macron to secure votes.

      1. I’m a French citizen on a silly blog site and the only people that should be embarrassed by the whole said saga are the court jester and the British Government. This whole sad saga is about peoples livelihoods which seems to have been forgotten in the press especially the British guttersnipe press which now seems to include The Times. The French fishermen have fished the area around îles anglo-normandes for generations without problems and had a good working relationship with the local fishermen until British bureaucracy reared it’s ugly head. These are not deep sea trawlers but small one man operations that have fished these waters before the Duke of Normandy taught you English how to behave. It’s all very well for a politician saying the talks were fruitful but try explaining that to someone trying to put food on the family table. I can see more trouble ahead and the sales of generators going up.👿

        1. Boo hoo, Boggy ! I’m afraid the French fishermen were over-promised when M. Beaune said they would not pay the price of Brexit. British fishermen paid the price when UK joined the CFP and French fishermen will pay the price for Britain leaving . C’est la vie !

          1. ‘French fishermen will pay the price for Britain leaving’. Perhaps. We shall see. Macron needs the fishers’ votes and Johnson uses fishing as an icon of brexit, so the stakes are high. But inescapable facts are that the EU is 5 times bigger than the UK economically, and the UK needs its trade with the EU more than the EU needs the UK’s, so I know who I would bet on gaining the advantage in a negotiation. (And I think the last 5 years of negotiations demonstrates that.)

  2. The EU approved the methodology for granting licences. If France thinks something fishy is going on they should take it up with them. My guess is that they have and that’s why they’ve backed down from all those silly threats. Meanwhile French trawlers are being put up for sale.

    1. They have not backed down but agreed to hold off for more “talks”. The hand is still poised on the switch.😛

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