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The Fishing Dispute Between the UK and France

The dispute between the two countries over the fishing rights. Both sides accuse one another of breaking the post-Brexit agreement which is based on fishing rights. Fishing is one of the most important industries for both countries. United Kingdom (UK) used to be a part of the European Union (EU) common fisheries policy that gave all European fishing boats equal access. After the Brexit, UK and EU vessels needed licenses to fish in each other territories. The boat had to prove they have fished in the past. There are places like Jersey and Guernsey that publish their licenses making the process more complicated than before. France has accused the UK authorities of limited licensing it is entitled to. The UK has denied all these accusations and that the other licenses were not granted as the boats could not prove their track records 

Under the terms of the Brexit trade deal, which came into force on 1 January, EU access to UK waters and the UK access to EU waters are now managed through a licensing system for fishing vessels. Known as the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the Brexit trade deal also will see UK fishing boats find themselves with a greater share of fish from UK waters, with part of the EU’s previous share being transferred during an “adjustment period” until 2026. 

As the UK became an “independent coast state” after December 31, 2020, Britain’s fishing industry, which makes up less than 0.1 per cent of the national economy, has been demanding greater access to the fishing grounds it currently shares with the EU – something the bloc has vehemently resisted.

The dispute has accelerated as France seized a British boat named Cornelis from the French waters. This was regarded as a step that could lead to retaliatory action. Another boat has been fined for not following the rules. France has further threatened to ban boats from their ports if the issues are not resolved as soon as possible. 

Responding to these threats, Mr Eustice who is Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom has said “We believe these are disappointing and disproportionate and not what we might expect from an ally and partner. Further, “The measures being threatened do not appear to be compatible with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement or wider international law and, if carried through, will be met with an appropriate and calibrated response.”