Deadline nears in France-UK fishing row

Today is the deadline set by the EU for the UK to issue fishing licenses to French fishermen - a point of serious contention post-Brexit.

Fishing boats block the entrance to the port of Calais in November. Today is the deadline for the British government to issue post-Brexit fishing license to French fishermen.
Fishing boats block the entrance to the port of Calais in November. Today is the deadline for the British government to issue post-Brexit fishing license to French fishermen. (Photo by Bernard BARRON / AFP)

The UK government on Thursday said it was not working to a Friday deadline given to it last month by the European Union to resolve a row with France over post-Brexit fishing rights.

“We’ve never set a deadline. I recognise they (the EU) themselves have set one but it’s not one we’re working to,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

France is angry that Britain and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey have not issued some French boats licences  o fish in their waters after Brexit.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday accused UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government of failing to keep its word on Brexit, but said he was willing to re-engage in good faith.

“The problem with the British government is that it does not do what it says,” Macron told a news conference, adding however that there “had been progress” in the last weeks and that France wanted full cooperation with London.

Under a deal agreed by London and Brussels late last year, European fishing vessels can continue to ply UK waters if they apply for new licences and can prove they operated there in the past.

The British Environment Secretary George Eustice was expected to hold talks with EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius on Friday, Downing Street said.

At a previous meeting between the pair on November 24, Sinkevicius gave Britain a December 10 deadline to resolve the issue of licences sought by French fishermen, who complain that post-Brexit requirements are too onerous.

Johnson’s spokesman said that Eustice and Sinkevicius had spoken on Wednesday evening about progress so far on the licensing issues.

But he said he was “not aware of certainly any communication we’ve had from the French government, certainly not to the Prime Minister”.

“There’s a technical process still ongoing based on evidence rather than set deadlines,” the spokesman added, insisting talks so far “have been constructive”.

France is demanding more fishing licences from London and the Channel Island of Jersey as part of the agreement which was signed on Christmas Eve last year.

European fishermen can continue to work in British waters as long as they can prove that they used to fish there.

In May, as tensions over access to the self-governing British crown dependencies in the Channel boiled over, French trawlers briefly encircled Jersey’s main port.

In November, French fishermen on Friday blocked freight traffic from entering the Channel Tunnel to England, in a day of action to protest at the post-Brexit fishing rights granted by Britain.

Guernsey’s authorities had so far renewed licences on an interim, month-to-month, basis as it considered the applications.

The licences announced on Wednesday will enable 40 vessels to continue to fish in Guernsey waters from February 2022.

But the French and British are arguing over the nature and extent of the evidence required.

Member comments

  1. Macron says the trouble with the British Govt is that it ‘doesn’t do what it says’. He would have more of a point complaining that it has never veered from doing what it said it would do ie despite all the silly French Gov threats to cut electric supplies and blockade Calais, the British Govt has continued saying the same thing on licensing since Jan 1st – provide the evidence as per the T&C Agreement and we’ll supply the licence.

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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.