Brexit: Fisherman discusses plan to 'look further afield'
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Hardline European affairs minister Clement Beaune vowed to continue battling to ensure French trawlermen have the right to use the UK’s fishing grounds. It comes after reports that up to 80 percent of boats working out of the northern port of Boulogne-sur-mer have not been granted licences to fish in our waters. Mr Beaune, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, said he was striving to ensure the post-Brexit fisheries pact is upheld.
The minister 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.”
Under the terms of the UK-EU trade deal, Brussels agreed to hand back 25 percent of its total catch by value in UK waters.
The arrangements will be phased in over a five-and-a-half-year transition period, during which European vessels have the rights to use Britain’s fishing grounds.
But 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.
Mr Beaune called for renegotiations over fishing rights to begin today to prevent EU boats from being locked out of the UK’s fishing grounds.
He said: “The core of this is making sure our economic interests are taken into account.”
Brussels has repeatedly claimed it has the tools to punish Britain with sanctions, starting on fish exports to the EU, if access is withdrawn.
Announcing the trade deal last December, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was confident the bloc has enough leverage to maintain its fishing rights in British waters.
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Since the pact entered into force on January 1, French fishermen have struggled to access UK waters because they’ve been unable to secure the necessary paperwork.
Up to 80 percent of boats operating out of northern France have not yet been licensed, despite the new arrangements having entered into force more than four months ago.
Olivier Lepetre, President of the regional fisheries committee, described the sudden fall in trade and amount of fish caught as a “disaster”.
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He said: “It’s a disaster. The fall is so dramatic that you can’t make up for it.
“Boulogne-sur-mer is less than 30 km from the United Kingdom. The fishermen therefore quickly arrive in British waters.
“But not so much after Brexit because 80 percent of fishermen still do not have their licence.
“The UK asks for electronic evidence to show they have been fishing in British waters since before 2016, but many fishermen don’t have that.”
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