Brexit: Fisherman discusses plan to 'look further afield'
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British officials have held talks with their French counterparts ahead of a protest by a group of trawlermen who are planning the outrageous revolt in ports near Calais. They have accused Downing Street of blocking their access to UK fishing grounds after the post-Brexit agreement with the EU entered into force. The row is over an alleged refusal to issue special licences to French boats working out of Boulogne-sur-mer.
A Government spokeswoman said: “The UK maintains a consistent, evidence-based approach to licensing EU vessels using information supplied by the European Commission.
“We do not recognise the figures that have been shared by the French fishing industry and consider this reaction to be unjustified. Our concerns regarding the planned protest action have been raised directly with the French authorities.”
Union bosses representing fishermen that work out of the French port claim 80 percent of their vessels having been granted permission to fish in UK waters.
They say just 22 out of 120 boats have been handed the post-Brexit licences to access Britain’s six to 12-mile zone in our coastal waters.
But official figures published by the Government claim that 87 French vessels have been granted permission to operate in the area.
And around 40 fishing operations are having their licences reviewed currently, the statistics show.
French fishermen involved in the protest, due to take place tomorrow evening, have claimed they will target cargo ships carrying the catch from their British counterparts to the Continent.
They will also encourage processing plants in Boulogne to reject business from UK trawlermen.
In a statement, union barons said: “The fishermen of Hauts-de-France have shown extreme patience.
“But after being more than conciliatory, they are sounding the alarm bells to draw attention to an economic disaster in the industry.”
Under the terms of the Brexit trade agreement, Brussels agreed to hand back 25 percent of its catch in UK waters.
The generous allowance enjoyed by EU boats will be phased out over a five-and-a-half-year transition period.
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French fishermen claim they have already been “extremely weakened” by Brexit and insist they will not stand by and allow their industry to collapse.
They added: “This accumulation of problems is suffocating and it condemns not only the fishing industry but also all professionals in the agro-fisheries sector in Hauts-de France.”
French boats have long profited from their generous access to Britain’s coastal waters.
France’s hardline European affairs minister Clement Beaune last week vowed to keep battling to ensure French fishermen can use British waters.
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Mr Beaune, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, said he was striving to ensure the post-Brexit fisheries agreement is upheld.
He said: “What is important now is full application of the agreement as stated and we have not got to that point yet.
“We’ve been fighting since January 1 so that the licences are given to our fishermen, so their rights to access the fishing zones are guaranteed.”
Mr Beaune revealed that still not all of the French fishing fleet has been granted licences to use our lucrative coastal waters.
“This is a fight that has been fought since January 1, but we have not won yet,” he said.
“We will continue and we will continue to be firm.”
This also poses a question to what will happen to the European fishing fleet’s access to British waters after the transition period expires in 2026, he added.
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