Brexit fishing talks breakthrough as UK grants licenses to French fishermen

The governments of the UK and Jersey have issued new licenses to French fishing vessels to trawl in UK waters in an apparent attempt to ease cross-Channel tensions.

The deadline imposed by Brussels from midnight Friday to Saturday to resolve a post-Brexit fishing dispute has passed without an agreement being announced.

However, the UK government has since confirmed that Friday night’s talks between Environment Secretary George Eustice and the European Commission’s Virginijus Sinkevicius, after “several weeks of intensive technical licensing discussions,” resulted in the award. new licenses for small boats.

In a statement, a spokeswoman said 18 additional licenses had been issued to replacement vessels which may have presented “new evidence” of having previously fished British funds, along with seven other vessels under consideration.

Jersey granted permanent licenses to five more vessels, she said.

France had threatened to pressure the European Union to take legal action and trade restrictions against Britain if there was not a “sign of goodwill” in the fishing dispute. in time for the 12-hour deadline set by Brussels.

It is not clear whether the UK’s latest licensing offer will meet Paris’ definition of a “good faith gesture” in the talks.

French Minister for European Affairs Clément Beaune on Friday suggested the deadline could be extended as long as the UK offers “a few dozen additional licenses” to show that “the dialogue is bearing fruit”.

The UK has said it considers the last phase of negotiations to be over.

The fishing line – which had seen French fishermen block British access to mainland ports – focuses on trawling licenses in British and Channel Islands waters under the post-British trade deal. Brexit with the EU – the trade and cooperation agreement (TCA).

The main source of contention is the number of fishing licenses in the waters around the UK coasts for small French vessels which can prove they operated there before Brexit.

France claims Britain has not issued enough licenses to its fishermen while the UK government has insisted applications have been granted to those with the right documents.

Prior to Saturday’s announcement, it was believed there were around 100 pending licenses, from Paris’ perspective.

A spokeswoman for the UK government said it had taken an “evidence-based approach” and that when fishing data had not been provided, “licenses had not been issued”.

Providing details on the decision to issue more fishing licenses, she added: “On direct replacement vessels, we have taken an ATT-compliant approach that ensures the stability and sustainability of our fisheries.

“Last night, following receipt of new evidence from the (European) Commission, the UK authorized 18 replacement vessels based on this methodology.

“Additional technical work on seven other licenses for direct replacement vessels is expected to be completed on Monday.

Jersey announced today that it may, after receiving new data this week, issue permanent licenses to five other eligible vessels currently holding temporary licenses.

“This will bring the total number of permanent licenses issued by Jersey to 130.

“This now concludes this phase of intensive licensing talks.”

Officials said the licensing process was based on “evidence rather than time,” with talks continuing next week.

They pointed out that the UK and the Crown Dependencies had “gone to great lengths to help vessels prove” their historical fishing activity, including purchasing commercially available electronic positioning data.

To meet UK criteria, vessels must prove that they have fished in UK waters for one day in each of the four years between 2012 and 2016, while Guernsey and Jersey ask for evidence of fishing for more than 10 days at during a year of the above. period.

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