Will fishing row be resolved? How UK could offer solution as deadline looms
Macron's fishing threats would harm 'everybody' says expert
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The UK is expected to bring a conciliatory offer to French fishermen in a big to bring an end to the ongoing row over post-Brexit fishing licences. Negotiators are hoping to clinch an agreement with their European Union counterparts in a meeting on Wednesday, just ahead of the deadline for talks to be resolved.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, and EU Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius will meet on Wednesday, where Mr Eustice is expected to offer more permits for French fishers to use UK waters.
Under the terms of the Brexit fishing deal, EU boats can have a licence if they can demonstrate four years of historical fishing activity in UK waters between 2012 and 2016.
The argument has evolved from some licences being denied as fishers have replaced their boats – meaning they have been left out of getting a licence where others would be able to claim one.
Although unconfirmed, UK sources have said “replacement boats” would be issued with new permits, based on their skippers historic fishing activity.
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A UK Government spokesperson said: “Our approach on fisheries licensing has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments.
“Overall, we have licensed nearly 1,700 EU vessels.
“We will continue to consider evidence in support of the remaining applications and discussions will continue with the European Commission this week.”
The ongoing row between France and the UK has led to bitter threats of retaliation from France and protests from French fishermen.
In November, French skippers prevented ferries and lorry drivers from entering Calais and targeting the Channel Tunnel in a peaceful protest.
France has said it will block ports and hold up UK freight unless more licences are granted to its fishermen.
But the UK argues such retaliation would break the terms of the UK-EU trade deal.
The crunch meeting comes two days before Paris’ December 10 for progress in the talks.
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How did the fishing row start?
Earlier this autumn, a scallop vessel owned by Macduff Shellfish was ordered into the port of Le Havre in France by French officials along with another boat.
The two boats were fined after one failed to comply with police checks and the other did not hold a proper licence.
Macduff said the vessel was “legally fishing for scallop in French waters” and said the boat was being used as “another pawn in the ongoing dispute between the UK and France”.
France claimed one vessel didn’t have a licence, and the other allegedly initially refused to let authorities board and undertake a check.
The UK Government insisted the detained boat had a licence to fish.
The boats were released by authorities and travelled back to the UK in the days after.
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