Boris Johnson Plays Down Rift With France Over Brexit Fishing Licenses
(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson downplayed the significance of a rift between the U.K. and France over post-Brexit fishing licenses, calling the issue “vanishingly unimportant” compared with efforts to limit global warming.
The spat had threatened to overshadow the global climate summit hosted by Johnson until French President Emmanuel Macron withdrew a threat to punish the U.K. for restricting the access of French fishing boats to British waters, saying he would give negotiations more time to reach an agreement.
Speaking to reporters in Glasgow, Scotland on Tuesday, Johnson said the U.K.’s position on licenses hasn’t changed, though his officials have repeatedly said his government is seeking a “consensual” solution with France.
“We are working very, very closely with our French friends and partners on the things that matter most to the people of the world, and that is tackling climate change and reducing CO2,” he replied when asked about the licenses and the fallout with France. “By comparison with that hugely important issue, the ones that you mentioned are really vanishingly unimportant.”
At the heart of the fishing tensions are 55 boats that want to fish in the waters around the British isle of Jersey. France says the U.K. has already broken deal struck during Brexit by refusing to grant them licenses. But the Jersey government, which is making its own decision on licenses, says the boats don’t have enough evidence to prove they fished in the waters historically.
Officials are discussing the type of evidence that is needed for the French boats to qualify for licenses.
Much now depends on talks between U.K. Brexit minister David Frost and France’s junior minister for European affairs, Clement Beaune, on Thursday in Paris. They are also due to discuss another thorn in the U.K.’s relations with the European Union: post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.
As Johnson tries to cajole global leaders into spending more money on protecting the planet, and put Britain at the forefront of global efforts to tackle global warming, he wants to avoid an argument with France over fishing rights from undermining those efforts.
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