UK, EU settle row over fishing licenses
Weeks of negotiations aimed at settling a dispute over post-Brexit fishing licenses have ended with the United Kingdom issuing 18 licenses for European Union replacement vessels in U.K. territorial waters and five licenses for E.U. vessels to access Jersey waters, the European Commission has confirmed.
French vessels have performed a series of protests, including a blockade of the British island of Jersey, arguing they were not issued a sufficient number of permits to cover all the fishing vessels that historically fished in U.K. waters before Brexit.
The European Commission and the U.K. government have negotiated since late November to address all outstanding license requests by E.U. fishing vessels by 10 December. This has resulted in 83 additional vessels receiving clarity for their fishing in U.K. waters, and an agreement to have seven additional replacement vessels licensed, the E.C. said.
“Today's decision is an important step in a long process seeking full implementation of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). A number of vessels seeking access to waters have not yet received a license. The European Commission will continue to work, together with France, in order to ensure full implementation of the TCA and will examine the legal circumstances around every requested license which has not been granted,” it said.
According to a U.K. government spokesperson, the country’s approach throughout the licensing discussions was evidence-based and in line with its commitments under the TCA.
“We have licensed vessels where sufficient evidence has been provided that demonstrates that a vessel qualifies for access under the TCA. Where that evidence has not been provided, licenses have not been issued,” the spokesperson said. “On direct replacement vessels, we have taken an approach in line with the TCA which provides stability and ensures the sustainability of our fisheries.”
The spokesperson said that the further technical work on the seven additional licenses for direct replacement vessels is scheduled to conclude on Monday, 13 December, and confirmed that Jersey has now issued 130 permanent licenses.
“This now concludes this phase of intensive talks on licensing,” the spokesperson said.
However, the licensing did not meet the full request of the French government, and in response, fishermen in the French province of Brittany are planning a blockade of Calais, the main port of entry for U.K. goods entering the E.U., on 23 December.
“Far from satisfying the professionals of the sector, this news exasperates the fishermen of Hauts-de-France, who feel both betrayed by the British government … and neglected by the European Commission,” Brittany’s Committee for Maritime Fisheries told the Guardian. “Movements will be expected, movements which will target the import of British products.”
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