– France’s seizure of a British trawler in French territorial waters marked a serious escalation in a dispute between Paris and London over post-Brexit fishing rights.
Tensions between the two sides have been growing since Britain rejected licence applications for 35 vessels to fish in its waters in September. Below are details of the post-Brexit fishing agreement and fishing licences awarded, after Britain gave the latest numbers.
- Britain and the European Union have agreed that post-Brexit mutual access to each other’s waters is through a licensing system for fishing vessels.
- Britain says it has awarded 1,673 licences to vessels to fish in its exclusive economic zone stretching from 12 nautical miles from its coastline, to 200 miles. It says 763 of those vessels are French.
- Of the 1,673, 120 EU vessels are licensed to fish in a zone 6-12 nautical miles from shore, and 103 of them are French.
- Britain said on Sept. 28 that it did not award licences to 35 smaller vessels – under 12 metres in length – because they did not have supporting evidence to show they had a track record of fishing in British waters. Britain said it had granted licences for 12 of 47 applications made. It said on Thursday it had since licensed another four.
- A French government spokesperson said France had obtained only about half the licences it said it was owed.
- Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed between Britain and the European Union, the United Kingdom is required to grant access to vessels which fished in the relevant parts of the 6-12 nautical mile zone in four out of five years between 2012-16.
- Evidence to back up applications include positional data showing fishing activity or data recording catches.
PREVIOUSTENSIONS – SCOTLANDANDJERSEY
- Fishing has proved one of the most contentious areas of the Brexit trade deal, with Scottish boats being forced to temporarily cancel deliveries of scallops and langoustines to European restaurants in the days after the new rules came into force on Jan. 1.
- England’s fishermen, who largely backed Brexit, have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of betrayal because they did not want European boats accessing its rich inshore coastal waters after Brexit.
- France and Britain both deployed maritime patrol vessels to the waters of Jersey in May after a flotilla of French trawlers sailed in protest to Jersey’s main harbour over fishing rights.
- French fishermen said they were being unfairly deprived of access to rich fishing grounds off the coast of the self-governing British Crown Dependency. Jersey said it was following the post-Brexit rules.
- While Britain, as an independent coastal state, now has the power to control access to its waters, this is tempered by the fishing industry’s heavy dependence on trade with the EU.
- Most UK-caught seafood is exported, with around two-thirds of exports going to the EU. This has enabled the trading bloc to leverage trade access to its markets to ensure continued access to Britain’s waters.