UK applauds France ‘taking a step back’ from fishing threats for now


Britain has hailed France’s “backing out” of threats to impose punitive measures in a post-Brexit fishing license dispute as talks to settle the dispute continue.

Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged a de-escalation by French President Emmanuel Macron as he suspended action against British ships which he said could have been implemented on Tuesday.

But the Cabinet member said a meeting between Brexit Minister Lord Frost and French European Minister Clément Beaune on Thursday in Paris would be “very important” as further talks with the EU are also planned.

In another de-escalation, Mr Eustice suggested that a British ship seized in the diplomatic storm due to “administrative confusion” has now been released by France.

But France suspended threats at the last minute as negotiations continue.

Mr Eustice told Sky News: “We welcome the fact that France has withdrawn from the threats it made last Wednesday.

“We have always said that we want to defuse this and have always said that we always have an open door to discuss any further evidence that France or the EU may have on any additional vessel that they would like to have licensed.

“France has clearly made the decision not to implement some of the decisions it threatened last Wednesday, we welcome that very much, but I think there is going to be a very important meeting on Thursday between Lord Frost and his counterpart. , not just on fishing but also a wider range of issues.

Secretary of the Environment George Eustice
Secretary of the Environment George Eustice (PA)

But Mr Eustice said the captain, who is believed to be an Irish national who has a court hearing scheduled for next August, has yet to return in the future amid “more talks”.

“I understand the ship has now been released and I think it will take further discussion, there was clearly an administrative error at some point,” he told Sky News.

He then described the problem on BBC Breakfast as “administrative confusion” due to an engine change.

The European Union said talks called with officials from France, the UK, Jersey and Guernsey will continue on Tuesday.

On Monday evening, just a few hours before the deadline set by Paris, the French president reportedly told journalists at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow: “Since this afternoon, discussions have resumed on the basis of a proposal that I said to Prime Minister (Boris) Johnson.

“The talks must continue.

“I understand that the British will come back to us tomorrow with other proposals.

“All of this will be worked on.

“We will see where we are tomorrow at the end of the day, to see if things have really changed,” he reportedly said.

“My wish is that we can find a way out of all these problems. “

Mr Macron and Mr Johnson met briefly when the French president arrived in Glasgow.

The Brexit fishing dispute
Fishing boats remain in St Helier harbor, Jersey (Ben Birchall / PA)

Earlier, Downing Street said it had “robust” contingency plans in place if Mr Macron’s government threatened to disrupt trade from midnight.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK would take legal action under the UK-EU Brexit trade deal, and tit for tat retaliation. French action had not been excluded.

The UK has licensed 98% of EU vessels that have applied for permission to operate in UK waters.

But the dispute relates to the access of small boats, less than 12 meters, wishing to fish in the British zone of 6 to 12 nautical miles.

The Paris government was angry that the UK initially granted only 12 licenses out of 47 bids for smaller vessels, a figure that has now risen to 18.

Only boats which can prove that they have fished in UK waters for one day in each of the years between 2012 and 2016 are eligible for a license.

The Elysee Palace had said that without a move from the British government, the retaliatory measures would take effect at midnight, French news agency AFP reported.

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