France declares a new fish war on Britain

Elena Karaeva

The air temperature is dropping, and the water temperature off the Normandy coast is rising – this coming week the license of French fishermen expiring, wishing to continue fishing for seafood near the British islands of Jersey and Guernsey, located in the English Channel.

The fishing saga, in which threats to cut the cable supplying electricity to the islands, interspersed with the dispatch of Her Majesty’s naval warships to the conflict area, has been going on since January, when the economic agreement governing Brussels’ relations with London after Brexit came into force.

In fact, the very exit of Britain from the European Union was largely predetermined by the policy of fishing quotas, which the fishermen of the kingdom were obliged to follow. And a similar system was introduced by European bureaucrats who saw seafood exclusively on plates in exquisite restaurants in the Belgian capital.

These people, who lived on the money, including the British taxpayers-fishermen, dictated annually what and how much they can fish in the territorial waters of the United Kingdom.

From year to year, for all the decades that Britain was a member of the European Union, directives were issued to its fishermen, for non-compliance with which various sanctions were imposed, including fines.

But in order to make the life of the British sea workers even “sweeter”, in the same territorial waters the Brussels clerks allowed fishermen from other EU countries to fish. Moreover, their quota was no less than a quarter of the total annual catch.

Of course, all these rules and quotas were introduced in order to “preserve the population of the inhabitants of the sea”, “to help preserve fish stocks for future generations” and “to support the industry in the countries of the Community.”

More willingly than others, the French used quotas – it was in the territorial waters of Britain, in particular in the waters of the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, that they catch cod, haddock and there they also get scallop, one of the most popular delicacies.

The British, no matter how hard they tried to maintain equanimity all these years, the rage periodically erupted, and then the fishermen of both countries went on boarding. This was the case both in 1993 and in 2018, especially since the struggle for marine resources in the waters of both the English Channel and the North Sea, and even more so in the North Atlantic, has long traditions.

The same British tried to force the Icelanders to back down when they gradually expanded their maritime economic zone, while simultaneously expanding the ban on fishing for foreign trawlers. This military-diplomatic conflict of the 1950s-70s went down in history under the name “crash wars”. For the edification of the nets of the British violators, they were cut with special devices, similar to pliers, and Britain sent a navy, but in the end the Icelanders managed to defend the fish, which they considered their own.

The reason for the indirect revenge was Brexit. It was the British fishermen who were tired of the Brussels tutelage to the point of heartburn, especially triumphant when the majority voted in a referendum in favor of the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.

But these stern men with weather-beaten faces, who spend almost their entire lives at sea, underestimated the European hookers – as a result, fishermen from the EU managed to maintain their previous fishing quotas for five years.

And then the local authorities took control of the situation, deciding to drastically reduce the number of licenses for French fishing vessels.

In May, the conflict reached a boiling point, when London and Paris sent military reinforcements to the conflict area.

The ” high ” relationship highlighted mutual public threats. The situation could theoretically be resolved by Brussels, but the European Commission is resolutely not ready to openly admit that the points of the agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom concerning fisheries, to put it mildly, are not spelled out properly and carefully. They were coordinated in a terrible haste and panic: London threatened to leave without a regulatory document at all, and therefore Brussels officials preferred a small and constant chaos (hardly noticeable to anyone, as they thought) a big and loud failure – and in front of everyone’s eyes – of years of negotiations.

This resembles the behavior of careless housewives who, in order to hide sloppiness and laziness, usually sweep the dust under the carpet.

At the most inopportune moment, however, this dust and this garbage can crawl out.

What, in fact, is happening right now: having failed to solve the problem with quotas, European officials, “slobs” tried to hide it from prying eyes, saying: “We will clean everything up here now.” In May, so much dirt accumulated under the European fishing carpet that it was simply impossible not to see it. But instead of cleaning and tidying up, they hid the diplomatic “waste” again, saying: “We’ll wash it out and sort it out in three months, honestly, honestly!”

However, it must happen that three months later there was a new, much more significant scandal – with submarines, which Australia (which entered into an alliance with Britain and the United States) refused to buy from France.

Against this background, Paris, which has already heard from London the wish “to stop the hysteria and calm down”, will have to convince Downing Street to give permission to continue sea fishing for French fishermen.

And although Brussels verbally expresses support to Paris in every possible way with regard to fish quotas, the European Commission no longer has real leverage to influence the British. This is indirectly confirmed by the decision taken last week.

Businesses that have suffered losses from Brexit are promised, albeit small, payments. Nevertheless, mon-ey is unlikely to compensate for the loss of jobs and the damage to the entire industry, caused by those who failed to complete the task, and left the dirt lying in the corners of the vaunted European home.

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