How to resolve the Paris-London fishing rights row?

Although France and Britain have agreed to further talks in their dispute over fishing licences after Brexit, there is still no sign of an agreement. Commentators warn against allowing the situation to escalate and call for international mediation.

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La Vanguardia (ES) /

War over fishing bad for everyone

An escalation of the dispute would only bring disadvantages, La Vanguardia notes:

“The British announced legal steps and at the same time said they would increase controls on all European fishing boats. These measures could also affect Spanish fishermen. ... Tensions between the two countries do not help either side and could harm the fishing fleets of both countries. It would therefore be good for them to come to an agreement as soon as possible and avoid an escalation of mutual sanctions.”

Financial Times (GB) /

The US must step in

What the Financial Times would like to see is Washington intervening to repair the Franco-British relationship which is so important for the West:

“In Asia, the US has tried to build bridges between Tokyo and Seoul. It may now be time for Washington to perform the same role between London and Paris. The Americans need to squash illusions on both sides. The British need to understand that the US sees the EU as a crucial partner and will not snub Brussels in favour of 'the Anglosphere'. The French need to accept that the US needs Brexit Britain to succeed and will not treat the UK as a rogue state.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

Catch quotas actually work pretty well

The current dispute also shows how well Europe has fish resources under control, L'Opinion notes:

“A war over a few dozen fishing trawlers? In any case it shows that fishing is a good example of how humanity is quite successfully watching over an endangered resource. ... As with many other issues, Europe is one step ahead when it comes to fishing quotas, which are negotiated every year in consultation with experts in order to protect marine life. However Europe, the model pupil, accounts for only a small part of global fisheries: there are 400,000 fishermen in Europe compared to 50 million in Asia.”

The Times (GB) /

Unbecoming of a mature democracy

The French response to the dispute is disproportionate, The Times finds:

“British ministers have not been entirely innocent of such populist behaviour, and yet six months out from a presidential election, the loose cannons are to be found in France. Members of President Macron’s cabinet have vied with each other in escalating their denunciations of Britain. The invective is out of all proportion to the problem. The French authorities have suggested that electricity supplies to the Channel Islands, which are dependent on its neighbour for energy, might be cut off, or at best increased in price. Such Putinesque bullying of a supposed ally is unbecoming in a mature democracy.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

British breaking their word

The Irish Times shows understanding for the frustration of the French:

“Fishing was the last of a series of hard-fought battles dealt with under the TCA - a controversial compromise that acknowledged both UK sovereignty over its waters and the latter's willingness to guarantee traditional EU fishing rights in exchange for access to EU markets for British landings. UK licensing of French vessels, however, has seen what the French claim are overly onerous demands for proof of historic fishing. Fewer than a third of French licences applied for in the six-12 mile zone have been granted. A legacy of dishonoured agreements is hardly the basis for confidence in London's word.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Just banter

La Stampa explains why the parties could come to an agreement quickly:

“Both London and Paris are baring their teeth, and in both countries, those in power have their constituents in mind. Ultimately, however, both sides have an interest in resolving the issue: British fishermen want to retain access to the European market, where most of their catch ends up, and the French want to continue operating in the fish-rich waters of the English Channel. And the dispute with the French is just one of the issues facing London post-Brexit. The problem with the Northern Ireland Protocol is far greater and poses far greater risks.”

Marianne (FR) /

Turn old alliance into new union

In Marianne, British essayists James Noyes and Adrian Pabst emphasise how essential good relations between Paris and London are to the Western world:

“Empty talk about 'Global Britain' and 'French exceptionalism' does nothing to address the existential challenge facing the West. The same goes for political disputes over everyday issues such as vaccines or fishing rights. Britain and France must seize the opportunity to build their old alliance into a new union committed to shared values. ... Under British-French leadership, the Western Commonwealth will once again feel like a community with a common fate based on trust and cooperation.”