France reiterates legal threat over post-Brexit fishing line

France has alerted the UK that it could take legal action if there is no further movement on fishing licenses post-Brexit.

European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said Paris was “unhappy with the situation” following a row over licenses for French vessels to fish in British waters.

Last month, the French government said 93% of requested licenses had been issued by Britain, up from 60% in early November.

If dialogue proves insufficient, legal action may be necessary

Clément Beaune, French Minister for European Affairs

But Mr Beaune, speaking to reporters in Brussels on Tuesday, said the lack of progress since more permits were granted in December meant legal action remained an option, with France issuing a threat similar last year.

However, with talks continuing with the UK, the Minister stressed that he did not believe “we are still at the end of the road”.

He previously said France wanted 73 more applications approved for its trawlers.

“Our analysis is very simple – we are not 100% satisfied because we also do not believe that the agreement has been 100% implemented,” Mr Beaune told a press conference.

The French minister, in a translation by the European Commission, added: “We will, together with the commission, examine all the levers at our disposal to see what can be done, because it is clear that we are not satisfied with the situation.

The post-Brexit fishing dispute has centered on the number of licenses issued by the UK to small French vessels (Ben Birchall/PA)

(PA wire)

“We need to continue our dialogue on this specific issue related to fisheries to ensure that we can obtain the licenses that have not yet been issued.

“And as we said in December, if dialogue proves insufficient, legal action may be required.”

The fishing line is focused on trawling licenses in UK and Channel Islands waters under the terms of Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU – the Trade Agreement and Cooperation (TCA).

Before Brexit, French fishermen could fish freely in British waters, but since the bloc split, they need a special license from the British government or the crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey to fish in certain areas.

The main source of contention in the current dispute is the number of fishing licenses in waters around the UK coastline granted to small French vessels, which must be able to prove they operated in those areas before Brexit.

Meanwhile, Mr Beaune said the EU must “be prepared to show some flexibility” on the Northern Ireland protocol.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, right, resumed negotiations on behalf of the UK with the European Commission’s Maros Sefcovic, left (Ben Stansall/PA)

(PA wire)

The UK and the European Commission have been in talks for months over reforming the terms of the Brexit treaty, which effectively saw a border established in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Britain.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss took charge of the protocol negotiations after the resignation of former Brexit minister Lord Frost in December.

Ms Truss told MPs on Tuesday that after meeting her counterpart, committee vice-chair Maros Sefcovic, on several occasions, she believed “there was a deal to be struck” to resolve the impasse.

Mr Sefcovic also suggested that hopes for a resolution were growing, as he hailed the foreign minister as a “top-notch politician” with a “strong reputation as a good negotiator and negotiator”.

He told reporters at the EU’s General Affairs Council: ‘I am confident that if we focus on the two most crucial areas which I think we in the UK and the EU hear the more about our partners in Northern Ireland – and I’m talking about the East/West strait, the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sanitary and phytosanitary controls – that we can really make progress.

“We won’t be able to solve everything in a short time, but we really need progress, and my firm belief is that these are the two areas where we can achieve a lot if we really focus our efforts.”