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Your Guide To The English Channel Fishing Rights Row

One of the biggest fallouts from Brexit is the disagreements over open water fishing. In previous years, Britain had a relatively harmonious relationship with other European countries and strict rules to regulate fishing in British waters. As an island, Great Britain is surrounded by ocean, which means a lot of sea life. The disagreement has gathered significantly more pace in the past year, resulting in a huge dispute between the two major countries. If this conflict seems confusing, we have all the information you need to clear the muddy waters.

A Brief History Of the UK's Fishing Policies

When Britain left the European Union in January 2020, they were required to end many longstanding trade agreements that have been in place since they joined in 1973. Now an independent country, Great Britain was asked to set a new list of rules. These rules had to be approved by the EU and a deal made. One of the critical agreements they had to leave was the Common Fisheries Policies, which had divided up European waters between multiple countries. 

The Bay of Granville agreement was also instated in 2000, which allowed French boats to fish up to three miles off the coast of Great Britain and the Channel Islands. This was also ended due to Brexit, and Britain and the EU reached another agreement. The new fishing agreement allows French fishers to operate in Jersey and Guernsey waters and a permitted zone between six and twelve miles from the UK coast. This agreement will be in place from now until 2026 and qualifies any fishermen who can prove they had a license to fish in these waters pre-Brexit.

How the Dispute Began

Since introducing the new fishing laws, Britain has been reluctant to permit French boats to enter the restricted zones. This, France believes, means they are going against their treaty. French fishers must provide sufficient evidence that they have previously fished in these zones. However, despite valid proof, the UK government's applications are being turned away for insufficient evidence.  

The French government urged Britain to reconsider its approach to this matter and allow the agreed number of boats allowed to enter channel waters. If they fail, France has threatened to cut off power supplies to Jersey and restrict British vessels from bringing their catch into French ports. Parliament remains angry at the French government and believes Paris will be breaking international law should they act on any of their threats.

What It Means Going Forward

Larger fishing companies have not been affected by this dispute because it is easy to access the information and proof required for a permit. Smaller boats, however, have struggled to gather enough evidence to allow them to fish in British waters. The UK government believes finding genuine fishers amongst people trying their luck is complicated. This injustice is what has angered France the most.  

 The problem was forced to come to a head-on 1st November 2021. Jersey has since permitted additional boats into the restricted zone, but, ultimately, France has chosen to take legal action against Great Britain due to the ongoing issues. The new EU fishing quota states that EU boats' catch has been reduced by 15% and will continue to reduce by a further 2.5% each year after that until 2026. This will increase the UK's quota to an extra £145m each year.


The UK sells a considerable proportion of its catch to the EU annually, with more than 333,000 tonnes in 2019 alone. Depending on the outcome of the legal case against them, Britain may be required to sell their produce elsewhere. These tensions between both countries will directly affect fishing companies, but indirectly, fishmongers and supermarket providers too.  

If you are worried about how Brexit affects your business trade, you can call our team at France Tax Law. We will be happy to advise you and answer any questions regarding the changing laws.

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