French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said on Thursday that France and Britain moved to defuse their fishing dispute, with sanctions off the table for the time being but all options open if the talks fail.
Beaune was speaking after meeting British Brexit minister David Frost in Paris, as France and the United Kingdom were on the verge of a cross-Channel trade war over fishing.
The number of licences London allocated to French boats after the European Union exit is at the heart of the dispute. France claims that many people are missing, while London claims that the agreement is being followed.
The meeting on Thursday was ‘useful and positive,’ with more talks scheduled for next week, according to Beaune, who welcomed a new state of mind and said he had agreed with Frost to intensify talks on the licences.
France had threatened to increase checks on British trucks and products, as well as to bar British trawlers from entering French ports. However, it backed down on Monday to allow a new round of talks to find a solution.
‘All options remain on the table,’ Beaune said, adding that ‘as long as dialogue appears possible, we are giving it a chance, with no naivety and with a requirement to see results.’
He stated that France will assess the situation next week, adding that France was still missing approximately 200 fishing licences.
Frost will meet with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic on Friday in Brussels, a spokeperson for the government of the United Kingdom said.
For decades, Britain and France have fought over fishing grounds near their Channel coasts, an issue that also plagued years of Brexit negotiations before Britain completed its withdrawal at the end of 2020.
The most recent disagreement arose in September over the number of post-Brexit fishing licences. British scallop dredger was seized by France, which was later released.