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France to seek EU proceedings against Britain over fishing

France is turning to the EU to mount a legal challenge against the UK, after French fishermen did not receive the licenses they were promised.

A French fisherman shells a scallop.
A French fisherman shells scallops. Tensions between the UK and France over fishing rights continue to simmer.(Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

Paris will ask the European Commission to open post-Brexit litigation proceedings against Britain over a long-running dispute on fishing licenses for French boats in British waters, France’s European affairs minister said Friday.

“In the coming days we will ask the European Commission to launch litigation, a legal procedure, for the licenses we are entitled to,” Clement Beaune said after President Emmanuel Macron met fishing representatives and local officials.

French fishermen say Britain and the Channel Island of Jersey, a British crown dependency, are holding back on licenses for French boats that had been allowed to ply their waters for years before Britain left the EU.

The dispute has sparked the possibility of an all-out trade war, with fishermen in northern France vowing this week to step up protests and block British boats from French ports along the Channel coast.

Britain agreed to issue an additional 23 licences to French fishermen on Saturday, but France believes it is entitled to around 80 more UK licences.

The European Union had set London a December 10 deadline to grant licences to dozens of French fishing boats under the post-Brexit trade accord signed last year, with Paris threatening European legal action if no breakthrough emerged.

READ MORE Why the new fishing row between France and UK could get nasty

Legal proceedings could see the EU impose financial penalties or even tariffs on British goods if Britain is judged to be reneging on its commitments.

The two countries have clashed repeatedly this year over fishing as well as migrants crossing the Channel, post-Brexit trade arrangements and the sale of submarines to Australia.

London briefly deployed two gunboats in May when dozens of French trawlers massed off the Channel Island of Jersey to protest the licensing problems, prompting France to send two coastal patrol vessels.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week accused UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government of failing to keep its word on Brexit, saying “the problem with the British government is that it does not do what it says”.

The EU and Britain are also locked in a separate trade row over checks on products entering the British province of Northern Ireland after the UK government unilaterally postponed the introduction of checks.

Member comments

  1. At last France recognises that the T& C Agreement is a UK/EU agreement and is not pursuing the illegal threats to trade and Jersey’s electricity supply. To date, the EU has supported the UK position and methodology for granting licences

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POLITICS

Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

The final composition of the new French government was announced on Friday. A new investigation suggests that historic rape allegations against a newly appointed minister were ignored.

Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

It didn’t take long for scandal to hit the France’s new government.

An investigation by Mediapart published the day after the final list of ministerial positions was announced revealed that two women have accused one of the appointees of rape. 

READ MORE Who’s who in France’s new government?

Damien Abad, the new Solidarity Minister denies the allegations and a police investigation into one allegation was dropped in 2017. But another could be about to open. 

Who is Damien Abad? 

Damien Abad is a 42-year-old son of a miner from Nimes in southern France who became the first handicapped MP to be elected in 2012. He has arthrogryposis, a rare condition that affects the joints.

Prior to his appointment as the Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and Disabled People, he was the leader of the France’s right-wing Republicans party in the Assemblée nationale

What are the allegations? 

Two alleged victims, who didn’t know each other, told Mediapart that Abad raped them on separate occasions in 2010 and 2011.

The first woman described meeting Abad for dinner after having met him weeks earlier at a wedding. She said she blacked out after one glass of champagne and woke up in her underwear in a hotel bed with Abad the next morning fearing she had been drugged. 

A second woman who lodged a formal charge against Abad in 2017 said that he harassed her by text message for years. She eventually agreed to meet with him one evening. After initially consenting, she told him to stop – but her plea fell on deaf ears as Abad raped her. 

What does Abad have to say? 

The new minister denies the accusations.

“It is physically impossible for me to commit the acts described,” he told Mediapart – in reference to his disability. 

He admitted to sending “sometimes intimate” messages, but said he had “obviously never drugged anyone”. 

“I was able to have adventures, I stand by my claim that they were always consensual.”

Is he under investigation? 

The second alleged victim made a formal allegation against Abad in 2017. 

A subsequent investigation was dropped later that year after a “lack of sufficient evidence was gathered”.

Mediapart report that Abad’s entourage were not questioned by police and that the MP told investigators that he had no memory of the alleged crime. 

The first alleged victim flagged the abuse to the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics – an unofficial watchdog monitoring elected bodies – earlier this month. 

The Observatory has since brought the case to the state prosecutor, but it is unclear if another investigation will be launched.  

Who knew? 

The tone deaf appointment of Gérald Darmanin as Interior Minister in 2020 was controversial because at the time he was under investigation for rape. His nomination was met with street protests in Paris and elsewhere. Feminists accused (and continue to accuse) Emmanuel Macron of not taking sexual violence seriously. 

The investigation into Darmanin’s alleged crime has since been dropped.

Some will question whether the naming of Abad shows that lessons have not been learned. 

“Once again a minister  in the government of Emmanuel Macron accused of rape,” said Caroline De Haas, the founder of the #NousToutes feminist movement. 

The Observatory sent a message warning senior party figures in the Republicans and LREM about the allegations on Monday – prior to Abad’s nomination. 

France’s new Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne denied having any knowledge of the warning. 

“I am going to be very clear on all these questions of harassment and sexual violence, there will be no impunity,” she said during a visit to Calvados. 

“If there are new elements, if the courts are summoned, we will accept the consequences.” 

READ MORE Who is Élisabeth Borne, France’s new PM?

The Observatory meanwhile claims it has been ignored. 

“Despite our alerts, Damien Abad who is accused of rape has been named in government. Thoughts and support to the victims,” it tweeted

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