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”.
— Clement Beaune (@CBeaune) November 4, 2021
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.
(article continues below)
See also on The Local:
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.
Non-fish people look away. Here is my reply to a dishonest kettle of fish dumped on Parliament yesterday by the British government which purportedly “clarified” numbers at the heart of the UK-French dispute about fishing licences. 1/11
— John Lichfield (@john_lichfield) November 4, 2021