France Brexit fishing hell: ‘Disaster’ as 80% of fishermen in key port barred from UK seas

Brexit: Fisherman discusses plan to 'look further afield'

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Boulogne-sur-mer, the first-ever fishing port in France that is located in the north of the country, employs around 6,000 people in the vital and once-lucrative fishing sector. But three months after the UK completed its departure from the European Union and the agreement on fisheries was reached between the two sides, huge swathes of French fishing boats have been forced to remain in the port. Olivier Lepetre, President of the Regional Fisheries Committee, described the sudden fall in trade and amount of fish caught as a “disaster”.

Fishermen travelling from the port have easy access to UK waters as the town is located a stone’s throw across the Channel, meaning they could save much-needed travel time on boats.

But he warned four in five fishermen still don’t have a licence to travel to those waters, and blamed demands from the UK placed on its fishermen as the root cause of the problem.

Mr Lepetre told French political television channel Public Sénat: “It’s a disaster. The fall is so dramatic that you can’t make up for it.

“Boulogne-sur-mer is less than 30 km from the United Kingdom. The fishermen therefore quickly arrive in British waters.

“But not so much after Brexit because 80 percent of fishermen still do not have their licence.

“The UK asks for electronic evidence to show they have been fishing in British waters since before 2016, but many fishermen don’t have that.”

In a further attack on the fisheries deal negotiated between the UK and EU, Mr Lepetre claimed “Brexit is a real fiasco” for the fishermen of Hauts-de-France, the northernmost region of France.

He raged: “For the fishermen of Hauts-de-France, Brexit is a real fiasco.

“We are losing. Such a bad negotiation!”

Mayor of Boulogne-sur-mer Frederic Cuvillier launched a furious attack against Michel Barnier, who was the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator when the deal on fisheries was struck with the UK.

He demanded the eurocrat explain why fishermen are suffering to the point they don’t know “how they are going to live anymore”.

Mr Cuvillier said: “Mr Barnier should come out of his silence to explain to us why the fishermen are not in a position to know how they are going to live anymore.

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“In this climate of uncertainty, many are worried about the future of France’s leading fishing port.”

Xavier Leduc, Managing Director of fishing vessels owner Euronor warned in Boulogne, the fishing industry has been put under threat by Brexit.

He explained: “Europe requires customs control when disembarking to justify the European origin of fish.

“That forces us to divert our boats to make a longer route from Scotland to Denmark and then come to Boulogne, so the fish are no longer that fresh.

“Less fish, less freshness, all this has repercussions on the sector.

“In Boulogne, fishing represents 6,000 jobs, but also an ecosystem threatened by Brexit.”

Under the trade deal agreed by Boris Johnson, the EU’s share of the catch from British waters will fall by 25 percent in stages over the next five years.

Following the end of that fishing transition period in June 2026, both sides will hold talks annually to discuss access.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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