The announcement had the effect of a bomb on French fishermen. They expressed, Thursday, November 18, their anger after the Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, mentioned a compensation plan for those who could no longer work because of Brexit. The recognition of a “Defeat” from France, from the professional point of view.
“We will continue to fight, we will not let go of our fishermen”, however wanted to reassure, Friday, Emmanuel Macron during a trip to the north of France. ” The Commission [européenne] must protect us. It’s going too slowly, it’s going too softly “, criticized the French president, warning that if “The Commission does not play[ait] not its role, France the iron[ait] ».
“I refuse to be referred to a bilateral dialogue, [car] it is not only a subject between France and the British, it is a subject of respect for the given word ” during the conclusion of the Brexit agreements between London and the Twenty-Seven, according to him. Today, ” they [les Britanniques] do not respect these agreements, I said it very clearly to Boris [Johnson, le premier ministre britannique] » , he insisted.
In reaction to the difficulties in obtaining fishing rights, in particular from the authorities of the Channel Island of Jersey, Mr.me Girardin had announced, Thursday morning, the preparation of “Fleet exit plans” to compensate fishermen whose vessels do not obtain a license and ultimately remain at the quayside.
“Neither renunciation nor retreat”
“It’s visibility you need. I will therefore be frank with you, we must prepare for these losses ”, declared the minister in the morning in front of the professionals. She clarified that“An envelope of 40 to 60 million euros” could “To be put on the table”, supplemented by European funds intended to support the consequences of Brexit, in order to compensate fishermen whose vessels cannot be taken back and will end up being scrapped.
While fishermen are worried about a possible turnaround in Paris, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, has already assured, Friday, that France is not backing down on fishing and is still demanding the “Same number” licensing in London. “There is no renunciation or retreat. We continue both the negotiation and the pressure. We are asking for the same number of licenses ”, he told AFP.
At the Assises de la Pêche et des produits de mer organized in Saint-Pol-de-Léon (Finistère), local elected officials and professionals immediately rejected the hypothesis of a “Massive plan to destroy ships” while negotiations continue with London. A shared reaction in French ports whose activity depends largely on British waters. “The defeat, it was predictable (…). It’s a fiasco ”, Pascal Delacour, boss of a trawler from Granville (Manche), opposite Jersey, told AFP. “France has lowered its pants and abandoned its young sailors, because it is above all they who do not have licenses. “
The president of the Côtes-d’Armor fisheries committee, Alain Coudray, used identical words. “With the English (…), you must not let go of a centimeter, you must show your teeth, otherwise … “, he told AFP. “The government is disarmed. The fleet exit plan is the ax. It means it’s the end. (…) The government is lowering its flag, although it had promised retaliatory measures ”, reproaches the president of the regional fisheries committee of Hauts-de-France, Olivier Leprêtre.
“The government’s priority is to obtain licenses”
Faced with the outcry, the minister spent an hour at the end of the day with the professionals and repeated that the “Government priority [était] to obtain licenses “, most “This does not prevent predicting the future of the industry”, including by compensating those who remain at the quayside. “It does not mean that we capitulate, that we do not continue to fight”, again defended Mr.me Girardin Friday morning on France Inter.
For his part, the president of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, Stéphane Séjourné, declared on Friday morning that “This compensation was already provided for at the time of negotiations with the British for Brexit. This is called the compensation fund [du] Brexit ». For the MEP, “Brexit is a lose-lose for everyone (…) : British fishermen are not satisfied, French fishermen are not satisfied “, he repeated. “That does not mean that the negotiations do not continue with Great Britain”, he nevertheless assured, affirming that“There is still a negotiation on 200 licenses which must be granted” through London.
“You have to be firm at twenty-seven” in “Appeasement”, he said, while “Providing for elements of compensation, if ever, on volunteering, the fishermen wish to be compensated”. “On all negotiation topics (…), it is absolutely necessary that the agreements be held by the British ”, he blurted out, “Because otherwise we will create case law in all other sectors”.
“Emmanuel Macron capitulated”
Several candidates for the 2022 presidential election denounced a failure of Emmanuel Macron in this case. On Friday, the candidate of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen, called in a tweet To “Really defend [les] fishermen [français] and [à] apply sanctions against England ”. “Faced with the British, Emmanuel Macron capitulated even before leading the fight”, she also wrote on the social network.
M’s wordsme Girardin are “A shame, because there is nothing worse than telling a worker, a fisherman, to burn, to break his work tool”, on his side critical the candidate of the French Communist Party, Fabien Roussel, by inviting “Put pressure on the British government in Jersey” by an action that would have “An immediate effect” : “Repatriation” speak French “Who have relocated their business to the island of Jersey, which is a tax haven”, and that “Stash their money over there”, from “All their accounts to France”.
On the right, Valérie Pécresse, candidate for the nomination of the Republicans (LR), denounced in a tweet the “Scandalous renunciation of France in the face of the British”. “Emmanuel Macron’s commitment to defend our fishermen will remain a dead letter”, she lamented, while one of his contestants, Xavier Bertrand, president of the Hauts-de-France regional council, tweeted a photo of him “With the fishermen of Hauts-de-France in Boulogne-sur-Mer”.
With the fishermen of @hautsdefrance in #BoulogneSurMer. @fcuvillier @RAPINJF https://t.co/HugUJT7fro
“This president will have evaporated our international influence”, a commented Eric Ciotti, also candidate for the nomination of the Republicans, on this “New diplomatic snub for Macron”.
France is still asking for some 150 licenses
Under the Brexit deal signed at the end of 2020 between London and Brussels, European fishermen can continue to work in British waters provided they can prove that they have previously fished there. French and British argue over the nature and extent of the supporting documents to be provided.
In areas still disputed, the governments of London and the Channel Islands have granted nearly 220 permanent licenses to date. France is still asking for some 150 licenses (against 170 a month ago), according to a count made by AFP. Mme Girardin reported progress, particularly with Guernsey, but vigorously denounced the attitude of the neighboring island, judging “Obvious that Jersey does not respect the agreement [de] Brexit ».
As dozens of provisional licenses expired at the end of September, France had toughened its tone, announcing sanctions, including a ban on disembarking for British ships and tighter customs controls, if no progress was made. The threat had finally receded, especially after the meeting between the French President and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, but the crisis is tending to get bogged down.
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Post-Brexit fishing licenses: “We will not let go of our fishermen”, promises Emmanuel Macron