PARIS â€“ A crunch meeting of British and French ministers intended to resolve a post-Brexit fishing row ended with a smiley handshake but no breakthrough.
â€œWe had a useful and positive discussion,â€ said Franceâ€™s Europe Minister ClÃ©ment Beaune after the meeting in Paris on Thursday. â€œThe talks today marked the restarting of a political dialogue between France and the U.K. within the EU framework.â€
However, Beaune added that there “was still a lot of work and important differences of position” on fishing rights.
U.K. Brexit Minister David Frost and Beaune met in the French capital for an hour and a half to review their countriesâ€™ bilateral relationship and various issues straining it in recent months, including a dispute over fishing licenses for French boats and post-Brexit trading rules in Northern Ireland.
There was some disagreement as to what exactly was said Thursday.
â€œWe will touch base with David Frost early next week to see if … the new methodology for agreeing [fishing] licenses has been implemented,â€ said Beaune, referring to Franceâ€™s argument that the U.K.’s criteria used to approve licenses was too restrictive.
The U.K. however insists it has not agreed on a new set of criteria for approving licenses, but will approve new ones if applicants are able to give enough evidence of having previously fished in British and Channel Island waters before Brexit.
Technical discussions on fishing licenses are expected to restart this weekend or early next week.
In a brief statement, a U.K. spokesperson said the two sides â€œset out their positions and concernsâ€ and â€œdiscussed the range of difficulties arising from the application of the agreements between the U.K. and the EU.â€Â
On the topic of sanctions against the U.K., Beaune said France would â€œgive dialogue a chanceâ€ with the understanding that there was the â€œneed for results in the coming days.â€
TheÂ fishing rowÂ was triggered by the U.K. and Jersey governmentsâ€™ decision to request EU fishers prove a track record of fishing in their waters as a prerequisite for receiving post-Brexit fishing permits. Many small French boats that enjoyed access to those waters before Brexit have struggled to meet that requirement, at the risk of being banned from operating in the area.
Although the EU and FranceÂ had hinted that solutionsÂ to the fishing row were within reach, the meeting did not yield a deal.
A European Commission spokesman said earlier Thursday that the technical discussions in the last few days have allowed â€œa growing understandingâ€ of the positions of each side.
â€œItâ€™s clear that there are many points of convergence on the various outstanding issues, but it is also clear that more time is needed in order to conclude what has proven a highly complex process â€” so the talks continue,â€ he said.
Frost will meet Commission Vice President MaroÅ¡ Å efÄoviÄ in Brussels Friday.