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UK Welcomes French Fishing Row De-Escalation As Trade Talks Continue

UK Welcomes French Fishing Row De-Escalation As Trade Talks Continue
4 min read

George Eustice has welcomed a decision by the French government to delay sanctions it had threatened to impose on UK trade, as talks continue over post-Brexit fishing rights.

In the latest development of a row which has seen threats thrown around from either side of the Channel, last night France announced it would not go ahead with a threat to refuse to allow British boats to offload catches at their ports from midnight. 

The UK's chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost will meet with French European affairs minister Clement Beaune in Paris on Thursday to discuss Brexit, and France has confirmed it will not go ahead with any retaliatory measures until after that meeting. 

Eustice, the UK's Environment Secretary this morning welcomed that “constructive discussions” will continue between the two states on Thursday.

“It’s a big de-escalation," Eustice told the BBC. "We very much welcome the fact that France has decided not to go ahead with its threats, and we’ll continue to have those constructive discussions.”

Eustice said that a cooperative arrangement with France over fishing licenses had originally been agreed almost a year ago.

“We concluded the trade and cooperation agreement that provided for French vessels and EU vessels to get access to our waters if they had a track record of fishing," he continued. 

“Around 1,700 such licenses have been issued. We very much welcome that France has now been clear that it won’t implement some of the threats that it made last Wednesday.

“We had constructive talks yesterday where we made clear that if there are additional vessels that have got evidence and they can bring that new evidence forward, we’ll obviously consider it.”

The UK's row with its European neighbour centres on post-Brexit fishing licences that give the French access to UK waters.

France claims that they are not being granted a fair number of licences from the British and are accusing Boris Johnson's government of not implementing the conditions of the post-Brexit agreement.

The dispute escalated last week when France detained a British scallop trawler, the Cornelis, over it reportedly not having a licence.

Yesterday Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told France that Britain will initiate legal action if the row was not resolved within 48 hours.

This morning the Cornelies, a UK fishing vessel seized by France last week, providing the catalyst for this wave of dispute with them, was released by French authorities.

Eustice also said this morning that he was “positive” about progress that had so far been made at the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow. 

Last night the first major deal was struck at the conference, with more than 100 nations agreeing to end and reverse deforestation. Notably Brazil, which is home to the Amazon rainforest, was among those to sign up to the deal. 

“If we want to tackle this challenge then we do have to have hope, we do have to have faith” Eustice said.

“We have to work together on this otherwise it is just a message of despair.” 

But in a blow to the UK’s primary aim to have all countries commit to net zero by 2050, one of the world’s largest economies, India, yesterday pledged only to completely reduce its carbon emissions by 2070.

Responding to the decision, Eustice said: “If you’re asking me would we prefer all countries to commit a bit earlier as we’ve done, well yes obviously we would.

“However, I think it’s also important to recognise when countries like India make a really important step forward and that’s what this is.

“Every country has got its own challenges, every country to make a credible pledge has got to work out how quickly it thinks it can get there.”

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