Thursday 06 February 2020
Landings by Guernsey fishing vessels in France can now resume safely. This follows the start of the authorisation regime to allow French vessels to access Bailiwick waters during 2020.
During the last few days, it had been indicated through informal discussions between fishermen in the Bailiwick and in France that Bailiwick fishermen would not be allowed to land or sell their fish through French ports.
The Regional Fishing Committee in Normandy (CRPMEM) has confirmed that the blockade threatened by some French boats to Bailiwick landings in France (including Cherbourg and Dielette) has now been removed. Before there had been any unofficial action in France, Guernsey's government had indicated that it would act quickly to ensure that the so-called 'SMEFF' authorisations' were in place this week.
The SMEFF administrative regime was introduced and implemented quickly to minimise any disruption to the fishing activity that had existed before Brexit. The Bailiwick has enabled the French authorities to fulfil their legal obligations under the EU's SMEFF Regulation by putting in place this administrative regime. This ensured that fishing access by French fishermen can continue during 2020. This now mirrors the continuity between the UK and EU allowed for by the UK's Withdrawal Agreement from the EU.
Communication remained strong at political and official level between Guernsey and its neighbours in France. The French authorities were reassured throughout the last few days that matters would be swiftly resolved.
The new regime is for 2020 only and does not create any new rights for French vessels in Guernsey waters, so it is without prejudice to any future relationship.
Deputy St Pier said:
"There was little time to respond to this very last minute request from the French Government to deliver a SMEFF authorisation regime, but we delivered on the political commitments we made to assist the French in resolving this problem. I am pleased that it has been confirmed that the unofficial threats to Bailiwick vessels have been removed. However, such threats of action by some French vessels must be condemned when we had already committed to delivering the authorisation regime. Any such action would be counterproductive for everyone, not least because it would force our own fishermen to find other markets. Our ability to respond fast and deliver a solution that protects our interests is evidence of our preparedness for Brexit, and the forthcoming negotiations."
Deputy Parkinson said:
"Our response to this last minute issue raised by France has demonstrated our ability to react quickly to threats and manage this issue by working closely with the French national and regional fishing authorities. We have delivered on our word by implementing the SMEFF authorisation regime this week. While this regime is only temporary until the end of this year, it will ensure we are able to think about our future economic relationship, including fishing, on a basis of a stable footing. We are already considering what we want from our future relationship, on fishing and the wider economy, as the UK and EU negotiations commence."