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Fishing Row Just Latest Round in Guerrilla Trade War Waged by EU & France Against UK, Observers Say

© REUTERS / GRAHAM BUCHAN INNESBritish fishing trawler Cornelis Gert Jan is seen docked in Peterhead, Scotland, Britain around March, 2019 in this social media image. Picture taken sometime in March 2019
British fishing trawler Cornelis Gert Jan is seen docked in Peterhead, Scotland, Britain around March, 2019 in this social media image. Picture taken sometime in March 2019 - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.10.2021
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France on 28 October seized the British trawler Cornelis Gert Jan for allegedly fishing in French territorial waters without a license. What's behind the latest Franco-British spat and do Brits regret their decision to leave the EU?
The seizure of the British vessel by France came amid a renewed spat over post-Brexit fishery rights apparently triggered by the UK Ministry of the Environment's decision to grant just 12 licenses to French fishermen out of 47 applications. According to London, the ministry's move was fully in line with the post-Brexit agreement with the EU.
Paris has also threatened to impose extra customs and hygiene checks on imports arriving from the UK, potentially creating more red tape and banning British fishing boats docking in some French ports to sell their catches. The UK has lambasted the French warnings as "disappointing and disproportionate", with British Home Secretary Priti Patel saying that discussions regarding the matter will continue both at the EU Commission level and with the French administration.

Trigger for the Fishing Row

"This spat is just the latest round in an ongoing trade guerrilla war waged by the EU and especially France against the UK," says Kevin Dowd, professor of finance and economics at the Business School at Durham University in the UK.
According to Dowd, the French response is, "as usual, disproportionate and unreasonable": "There already exist dispute resolution mechanisms but the French won’t use them," argues the professor. "The French response also reveals, yet again, that the French government is acting in bad faith towards the UK."
A fishing boat at work in the English Channel, off the southern coast of England, Saturday Feb. 1, 2020. The fishing industry is predicted to be one of the main subjects for negotiations between the UK and Europe, after the UK left the European Union on Friday. - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.10.2021
UK to Summon French Envoy Amid Escalating Fishing Row
The ongoing spat originates from Brexit, believes Jeremy Stubbs, President of the British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP): "It is clear that since the Brexit negotiations, [French President Emmanuel] Macron has not been seen as London's best friend," he suggests. "The fishing issue is a continuation of these negotiations."
When the Europeans are unwilling to reach a compromise, the UK thinks that it's partly related to Macron; on the other hand, British PM Boris Johnson is considered by the French intractable when it comes to the fishing issue, according to the politician. As a result, "each side is constantly taking revenge on the other with no end in sight: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," according to Stubbs.
He believes that post-Brexit Franco-British relations "are doomed to a certain degree of hostility", which is extremely unproductive and problematic, according to the politician.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street, ahead of addressing lawmakers about Britain's withdrawal from Afghanistan, in London, Britain, September 6, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.09.2021
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BoJo Vows UK’s ‘Ineradicable’ Love of France in Bid to Mend Fences Amid Diplomatic Row Over AUKUS

Did AUKUS Add Insult to Injury?

France has a good reason to be dissatisfied with Brits after its defence contractors were expelled from a lucrative submarine deal with Australia, according to Georges Kuzmanovic, the head of the “Sovereign Republic” party and a 2022 presidential candidate.
Although it's Washington who played the first fiddle in concluding the trilateral US-UK-Australian deal, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the move as a "stab in the back" while France's defence minister then called off talks with her British counterpart, Ben Wallace.
And still, Kuzmanovic is inclined to agree with Stubbs that the fishing row was largely triggered by Brexit: "It's all about Brexit. [It is being done] to punish [Brits]. Plus France is negotiating on behalf of the entire European Union."
Coastal Berwickshire : Fish Lorries At Eyemouth near to Eyemouth, Scottish Borders, Great Britain (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.01.2021
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Brexit Red Tape: EU 'Punishing' Great Britain & Northern Ireland for Leaving the Bloc, Britons Say
According to the French presidential candidate, it's Brussels, not Paris, that wants to punish Britain in the first place. The UK's exit makes it very difficult for the European Commission to tackle secessionist sentiment in the EU, with the people of Greece, the Netherlands, and France increasingly thinking about independence, he notes.
"Great Britain's success will mean a catastrophe for Brussels, hence the desire to punish London, to take revenge on it," Kuzmanovic suggests.
The politician argues that it is in the interests of France to establish mutually beneficial cooperation with the UK, given their close proximity to each other. However, the EU should not interfere in the countries' relations, according to him.
"I think we can come to a mutually beneficial agreement: we get access to British fishing areas, and the UK gets our electricity," Kuzmanovic says. "I'm talking about the electricity generated by our nuclear power plants."
 French fishermen repair their nets at Boulogne-sur-Mer after Britain and the European Union brokered a last-minute post-Brexit trade deal, northern France, December 28, 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.10.2021
‘A Common Front’: 10 EU Members Join France to Condemn UK Over Post-Brexit Fishing Licences

'No, I Regret Nothing'

Despite Brexit creating economic and political hurdles it appears that British Brexiteers, including fishermen hit by the latest row, don't regret the choice they made.
"I voted for Brexit and I’m still in favour, as most fishermen are for Brexit," says Ian Jepson, who has been a fisherman for 35 years. "We just need to let things settle down and try to pressurise our government to reclaim more of the UK territorial waters around our coast."
The fisherman explains that Brexit has not affected his company: "I landed a processor internally in the UK and my product stays within the UK," he says.
Although last year the shellfish and fish prices dropped significantly due to Brexit and the uncertainty, since then things have returned to normal and don’t look that bad at all regarding fishing, according to him.
"A few other things are getting worse like the shortage of migrant workers to pick crops and drive trucks within this country, but I’m sure the government will soon get that sorted," Jepson believes.
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