Why are the UK and France fighting over fishing rights? Row deepens after ships fined

The UK-France dispute over fishing rights appears to be escalating, with the two countries at odds after a British trawler was arrested by French authorities.

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice hinted that French President Emmanuel Macron was aiming for domestic gains. Macron is running for re-election next year, with French coastal cities likely to be particularly hard-fought political territory.

Two British fishing vessels were fined by France this week. The French ambassador has been summoned to meet with the UK government to raise the matter with the European Commission.

READ MORE: France’s ambassador called to the Foreign Office for fishing oars

But what is the dispute about – and what could it mean for the UK fishing industry?

Why are the UK and France fighting over fishing rights?

In September, the UK and Jersey governments denied fishing licenses to numerous French boats in what France describes as a breach of the post-Brexit fishing agreement.

Now the French government says it will stop British trawlers from landing in France starting next Tuesday and tighten controls on British trucks and boats unless more permits are given to their own fishing vessels.

On Thursday (October 28), the French authorities boarded Cornelis, a scallop ship owned by Macduff Shellfish, and ordered it into the port of Le Havre.

Macduff insists the ship only legally fished scallops in French waters. The company complained that it was being used as “another farmer in the ongoing dispute between Britain and France”.

Another British ship was also fined by France.

The UK’s fishing industry, which has been declining for decades, was at the center of the debate during the Brexit referendum campaign.

Many voted for Brexit to protect British fishermen and give the industry a better future. However, since then there has been tension between the UK and France over fishing rights.

What fishing rights does the UK have after Brexit?

As part of the protocol on post-Brexit fishing rights, UK fishing boats are getting a larger share of fish from UK waters than before, but EU boats still have the right to fish there.

Changes to quotas will be phased in between 2021 and 2026, but most of them were introduced this year.

After 2026, the UK government will have the right to completely exclude EU boats from fishing in UK waters. Thereafter there will be annual negotiations on fishing rights.

But the EU has the option to impose strict tariffs on imported British fish or to exclude British fishing vessels from their own waters.

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