George Eustice: UK vessels have acted within fishing agreement
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On Twitter, the former leader of UKIP said: “British trawler impounded by the French.. Why don’t we do the same to them when they come inside six miles next time?” His comment follows the seizure of a British fishing boat by French authorities.
France’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, threatened to take a zero-tolerance approach against Britain in the escalating dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights.
Mr Beune said: “We need to speak the language of force as I’m afraid it is the only thing this British government will understand.
“We will show no tolerance, no indulgence.”
But the vessel’s owner, Andrew Brown, believes the boat is being used as a “pawn” in the row.
Mr Brown, director of Macduff Shellfish, claimed his boat was doing nothing illegal.
He said: “Access to French waters for the UK scallop fleet is provided under the Brexit Fisheries Agreement. Macduff’s fishing activity is entirely legal.
“It appears our vessel is another pawn in the ongoing dispute between the UK and France on the implementation of the Brexit Fishing Agreement.”
This comes amid a growing row between the UK and France over fishing licences, with France claiming the UK has broken the December 2020 Brexit agreement by only granting 200 fishing licences to French fishermen.
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The licences would give French fishermen permission to operate in Britain’s fish-rich territorial waters, located six to 12 nautical miles from the coast, as well as the waters close to Jersey.
Two hundred and 30 fishing licences are still pending.
Just last night, Paris warned the UK Government it would impose sanctions on Britain if it did not authorise more French vessels the right to access UK waters.
Speaking in the House of Commons today, Mr Eustice said the threats from France were “disappointing and disproportionate”.
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The Conservative MP rejected claims the UK was failing to cooperate, adding that – of the 1,673 licences issued – 736 were for French vessels.
Of the 121 licences for boats to fish in territorial waters six to 12 nautical miles off Britain’s shores – where the row currently centres- as many as 103 have been for French fishermen.
He said: “It is very disappointing to see the comments that came from France yesterday.
“We believe these are disappointing and disproportionate and not what we would expect from a close ally and partner.
“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.”
He added: “The UK stands by its commitments in the trade and cooperation agreement and as I’ve said, has already granted 98 percent of licence applications from EU vessels to fish in our waters.
“All of our decisions have been fully in line with this commitment.”
Emmanuel Macron has called on ministers to consider possible retaliatory measures, which would be applied at the start of November if there are still fishermen without licences.
Possible sanctions could include increased border and sanitary checks on goods from Britain, increased checks on trucks coming from and going to the UK or the restriction of British access to French ports, which could risk disrupting supply chains in the lead up to Christmas.
Paris also added that it was “not ruling out reviewing its power supply to the UK”.
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