French fishing representatives and government officials met with EU Commissioners to air their frustrations over UK fishing licences
French fishing representatives and government officials met with EU Commissioners on Friday, 16 October last, to air their frustrations over the UK fishing licence debacle.
Some French vessels have remained locked out of UK waters and British territorial waters since 01 January 2021 when the UK left the European Union. Under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the UK was to grant licences to French vessels but now the fishers of Hauts-de-France, Normandy and Brittany believe that the British are reneging on granting licences to all their vessels by attaching conditions that some French vessels cannot complete. The main bone of contention is that EU-registered vessels have to prove that they have a history of fishing in the 6 to 12 mile zone in UK waters. This is proven by AIS (tracking system history) or logbooks, something that smaller vessels are not required to carry.
The group of French representatives were received Friday evening by the Vice-President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic and the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Ocean and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius, in the presence of the French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin, the President of the National Committee for Maritime Fisheries, Gérard Romiti and the Presidents of the regional fisheries committees of Hauts-de-France, Normandy and Brittany. The representatives were able to testify to the consequences of the implementation of the trade and cooperation agreement between the United Kingdom and the ‘European Union.
At the end of the meeting which lasted more than an hour, Gérard Romiti declared “I had come to express the exasperation of the French fishermen in the face of the British attitude and I was able to observe the French and European unity in the willingness to support the sector. ”
During this frank and open exchange, the efforts made by France, the Commission and professionals to try to meet the British demands were recognised and welcomed but Gérard Romiti added: “we are tired of this bad faith shown by the United Kingdom in the implementation of the agreement and more particularly in the issuance of access to fishing zones of 6-12 miles. and the Channel Islands. It’s time to put an end to these pseudo-technical discussions.”
Addressing Commissioner Sefcovic, he summed up the position of French professionals: “It is now a matter of politicians resuming their rights, raising their voice and initiating retaliatory measures so that no concessions are made. to the English next week.”
If Vice-President Maros Sefkovic was reassuring, it appeared that the Commission still favours the path of negotiation since it has put forward a meeting with the United Kingdom on Wednesday this week.
For her part, the Minister Girardin reiterated her desire to not let go and to stay in contact with the member countries who support her in her approach.