Until the very last moment, Britain and the EU argued over rules for fishermen in British waters after Brexit. It is precisely these regulations that are causing the problem.
Saint Helier (dpa) – The dispute between Britain and France over fishing rights in the English Channel has escalated surprisingly violently.
Two British military ships patrolled the coast of the Channel Island of Jersey on Thursday, while more than 50 fishermen from France blocked the harbor with their boats and vented their anger with torches and banners.
“It was like an invasion,” said Jersey-based fisherman Josh Dearing of the British PA news agency. France also sent two naval patrol boats near the Channel Island, which is about 20 kilometers off the French coast.
About four months after the last Brexit, the EU Commission called on the conflicting parties to exercise restraint. The points of contention must be discussed calmly, demanded a spokeswoman for the committee. At the same time, the Brussels authority complained of a UK violation of the Brexit Trade Pact: “The Commission has made it clear to Britain that the requirements of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement have not been respected.” With the final Brexit, Britain finally left the EU internal market and the customs union after a transitional phase.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed for de-escalation – the warships were just a “precautionary measure,” he said. Paris also assured it was not interested in escalation. “It is not our wish to create tension (…)”, said Secretary of State for Europe Clément Beaune of the AFP news agency. On the other hand, contractual rules should be applied quickly and completely. Jersey, as a crown property, is not part of the United Kingdom, but London is responsible for foreign and defense policy.
The background to the escalation is whether and how many foreign fishermen will be allowed to catch in British waters after Brexit. In the negotiations on a Brexit trade pact between the British and the EU, this was the most controversial issue, which at times seemed to make an agreement almost impossible. The regulations mainly determine the neighboring French, who are only separated by the English Channel. It was not until Christmas Eve that an agreement was finally reached on the joint pact, which provisionally entered into force just a week later. Both sides had to accept painful concessions.
According to Brussels, the UK government issued EU fishing licenses to fish in UK waters only under certain conditions. This was reported to the Commission on April 30, with effect from May 1. It is true that fishing can be restricted to conserve resources. However, from Brussels’ point of view, the deadline was too short and the question arises whether EU fishermen have been discriminated against. In Paris, it was criticized that permits for the fish-rich waters off Jersey were provided with additional conditions – this caused great concern among fishermen. France had threatened to cut off power to Jersey. Downing Street condemned the threats from Paris as “unacceptable and disproportionate”.
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