‘Not specified’ Ambiguous text at crux of France v UK fishing row explained

Fishing: French behaving in 'appalling manner' says Gardiner

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Britain and France have squabbled for decades over access to the rich fishing grounds around their Channel coasts. The fishing issue dogged the negotiations which led to Britain’s exit from the EU.

This week, Britain gave France 48 hours to back down from the threat of sanctions or face legal action under the Brexit trade deal earlier on Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron backtracked on his midnight deadline to resolve the ongoing row with Britain over fishing rights.

Now, in her latest column in Politico, Cristina Gallardo said both countries have interpreted the Brexit deal differently as the text was “ambiguous”.

She said: “The subsequent trade deal — the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) — was struck on Christmas Eve last year and covered goods trade, but also included investment chapters, provisions on fish and data protection.

“Both agreements left quite a lot of details unspecified, to be handled by a network of committees and working groups that would figure out how things would work in practice.”

Ms Gallardo added: “The Brexit trade deal contained an agreement on fisheries — but the French and the British hold opposing interpretations.

“This is because the text is ambiguous: French fishers are allowed to continue operating in Channel Islands’ waters as long as they can prove they previously fished there, but it does not specify what evidence is needed.

“The UK wants positional data showing fishing activity in its waters as well as a record of the catches.”

However, the French fishermen have said they have kept logbooks to prove they were operating legally in British waters before Brexit, she continued.

The latest row erupted in September after Paris accused London of failing to allocate enough post-Brexit licences to French boats – to fish in the zone six to 12 nautical miles from UK shores.

Last month, the UK approved just 12 permits out of 47 applications for small French fishing boats.

Despite relying on France for 95 percent of its electricity supply, Jersey has also taken a hard stance against EU trawlermen off its coast.

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It issued just 66 full licences and 31 temporary permits and refused 73 applications.

Mr Macron climbed down on his threat just hours after saying he was ready to press ahead with retaliatory measures against Britain, suggesting he wanted to give negotiators time to find a solution.

France had earlier said that, starting from 11pm on Monday, it would restrict cross-Channel trade, threatening to turn bickering over fish into a wider dispute between two of Europe’s biggest economies.

Mr Macron told reporters the French plan was on hold pending the outcome of the renewed talks.

He told reporters: “Since this afternoon, discussions have resumed on the basis of a proposal I made to Prime Minister (Boris) Johnson.

“The talks need to continue.”

He added: “My understanding is that the British were going to come back to us tomorrow with other proposals.

“All that will be worked on. We’ll see where we are tomorrow at the end of the day, to see if things have really changed.

“My wish is that we can find a way out on all these issues.”

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