With a short sentence, Thursday, November 18, Annick Girardin set fire to the powders. “So I’ll be frank with you, we have to be prepared not to get everything we expected. “ The Minister of the Sea anticipated that the British would probably not award all the fishing licenses requested by the French and mentioned possible financial compensation to end the life of certain boats. “I know how heartbreaking it will be”, she commented. She claimed to have an envelope of 40 million euros.
Basically, this sentence was nothing new. With Brexit, France created a compensation fund, knowing full well that a number of fishermen would lose. But, in the midst of the pre-election period, and after strong tensions in recent weeks on this issue, the declaration was received as an admission of weakness. “Emmanuel Macron capitulated”, launched the candidate of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen. Michel Barnier, candidate for the nomination of the Republicans party for the presidential election and former Brexit negotiator, who should however know the file by heart, has, too, castigated “Renunciation” of the government. On Friday, the head of state tried to raise the bar: “There is no renunciation or retreat. We continue both the negotiation and the pressure. “
150 small boats
The dispute is more symbolic than economic: it concerns around 150 small boats. Since Brexit, the delicate balance of water sharing between the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) has been called into question. Since the British referendum to leave the EU in 2016, the file has been one of the most complicated to manage. It was released on December 24, 2020, when teams of negotiators discussed the distribution of quotas species by species until the early hours of the morning, barely pulling out an agreement.
If a solution has been found on paper, its implementation is now at the heart of the problem. The vast majority of vessels, those fishing more than 12 miles from the coast, are entitled to an automatic license to enter British waters. It is on this basis that the British claim to have attributed « 98 % » licenses requested by Europeans, a little over 1,800 in total, of which nearly half are for France.
The battle concerns areas where the British authorities have a margin of appreciation. The first is between 6 and 12 miles from their coasts: 104 licenses have been obtained by France, but “54 are still missing”, says Mme Girardin. Jersey is the other sticking point: 116 definitive licenses have been obtained, but 46 are only provisional and at least 13 are considered “Priority” by Paris were refused. The other Channel Island, Guernsey, seems more lenient, with a “About forty definitive licenses”, still according to the minister, which should be awarded in early December. The main problem concerns boats under 12 meters, which are not obliged to collect satellite data of their movements and are struggling to prove their fishing history in UK waters.
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After Brexit, France ready to let go on the boats?