UK welcomes Macron's decision to back down in post-Brexit fishing dispute

The government has welcomed Emmanuel Macron’s decision not to press ahead with threats of punitive action against Britain in the dispute over licenses to fish in British waters after Brexit.

The French President had warned that Paris could prevent British boats from landing their catches in French ports and tightened customs controls from midnight in protest of the UK authorities’ alleged refusal to license French boats.

But last night (Monday) reports said that Mr Macron had said negotiations needed to continue.

A UK government spokesman said: “We welcome the announcement by the French government that it will not implement its proposed measures as planned tomorrow.

“The UK has made a clear statement on these measures over the past few days.

“As we have said over and over, we stand ready to continue the intense discussions on the fisheries, including examining new evidence in support of the remaining license applications.

“We welcome France’s recognition of the need for in-depth discussions to resolve the various difficulties in UK-EU relations.”

Last evening, just hours before the Paris deadline, the French President reportedly told journalists at the Cop26 Summit in Glasgow: “Since this afternoon, discussions have been based on a proposal I made to Prime Minister (Boris) Johnson.

“The talks must continue. I understand that the British would come back to us tomorrow with other proposals. Everything is being worked on.

“We’ll see where we are at the end of the day tomorrow to see if things have really changed,” he is reported to have said. “My wish is that we find a way out of all these questions.”

Mr Macron and Mr Johnson met briefly when the French President arrived in Glasgow. And officials from both nations were involved in the talks convened by the European Commission in Brussels.

Previously, Downing Street had said it had “robust” contingency plans in case the Macron government made threats to disrupt trade after midnight.

Foreign Minister Liz Truss said the UK would take legal action under the UK-EU Brexit trade deal and retaliation for French actions was not out of the question.

The UK has licensed 98 percent of EU vessels that have applied for permission to operate in UK waters.

The dispute, however, revolves around access for small boats under 12 meters who wish to fish in the UK zone from six to 12 nautical miles.

The government in Paris was angry that the UK originally issued only 12 licenses out of 47 tenders for smaller vessels, now the number has grown to 18.

Only boats that can demonstrate that they fished one day in UK waters between 2012 and 2016 can be granted a license.

The Elysee Palace had announced that the retaliatory measures would take effect at midnight without any move by the British government, the French news agency AFP reported.

A spokesman for No. 10 told reporters, “As expected, we have solid contingency plans. I will not go into detail here.

“It is the French who made these threats and we continue to urge them to withdraw from these threats.”

Jersey, also threatened with action by France, has issued 49 temporary licenses and 113 permanent licenses to French ships.

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