End in sight for France-UK fishing dispute while hopes rise for NI Protocol medicines agreement

Tue 14 Dec 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

fish catch

The French government said it still needs a “few dozen” more fishing licences to conclude its post-Brexit fishing dispute with the UK but an end is in sight.

France’s European affairs minister Clement Beaune said France had received 93% of the licences it said it is entitled to after the British government issued a further 23 at the weekend.

Good will

Britain and France have been arguing for months over fishing rights, with Paris threatening legal action and retaliation if there wasn’t a sign of “good will” from London, Politico reports.

The UK and Channel Islands governments agreed at the weekend that they will issue 83 further operating licences following an intensive fortnight of negotiations.

Blockade

Although the European Commission and French government appear satisfied with the result, averting a possible trade war, French fishermen said they will continue with a blockade of Calais on 23 December, reports the Guardian.

French vessels imposed a similar blockade at the port, which is the biggest entry point to the continent for British goods, in November.

The French minister for the seas, Annick Girardin, said the government would assist those fishers who had not been successful in their applications.

Jersey licences

According to the BBC, Jersey has granted another five French boats licences to fish in its waters, bringing the total to 130.

The Channel Island was the site of protests in May which saw Royal Navy vessels sent to protect the island from a possible blockade.

Trade deal

Under the post-Brexit trade deal boats from EU members states need licences to fish in UK and Jersey waters. UK boats similarly need licences to fish in EU waters.

French fishermen protested that following Brexit they were not being issued with licences to fish water they had historically worked. Britain insisted that evidence had to be provided of this.

Medicines next

With fishing almost dealt with there is hope that the EU and the UK could also reach an agreement on medicine supply for Northern Ireland this month, according to the BBC.

Northern Ireland remains covered by the EU’s pharmaceutical regulations but most of its medicines come from suppliers in Great Britain. These will be subject to controls and checks to ensure they meet EU standards when a grace period ends in January.

Some pharmaceutical companies have said that they will stop supplying Northern Ireland because of the added costs and administration.

Talking into next year

Discussions on other Protocol stumbling blocks, such as sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) products and customs checks, will now stretch into 2022, reports Bloomberg.

Brexit minister David Frost and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic are due to speak twice virtually this week and are expected to announce talks will continue into the new year, according to sources.