France and England Conflict: Old Wounds Open Up

The conflict between France and England dates back to before Britain left the European Union. Although it left the EU following much research and expert views, problems remained unresolved, especially political and economic relations with EU members. France is one of the EU countries with previous disputes with the UK. Now that the UK has left the EU, these disputes have intensified. One of these is over maritime interests and open sea fishing, and tensions have risen with the UK’s arrest and seizure of fisheries.

History of the Conflict Between France and England

The tensions between France and England have a long history. One of the oldest and most significant wars between France and England took place in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is known as the Hundred Years’ War. During this period, relations between France and England were very fragile. Every time disputes broke out between them, protracted wars ensued. Although a treaty was signed between them after each war, they strongly interfered in each other’s affairs. Britain even helped freedom fighters in the French Civil War.

With the discovery of the Americas in 1492, France and Britain experienced new tensions over their conquests. After the sporadic Anglo-French conflict on the American continent in 1756, Britain openly declared war on France. This war lasted until 1763, after which two treaties were signed, one of which set the colonial lines between England, France and Spain. England has benefited from these treaties. At the end of the war, France and Britain were reluctant to allow neutral shipping and adopted economic and other reciprocal measures designed to prevent impartial assistance to the adversary.

The Conflict Between France and England Before Brexit

Brexit temporarily abated many disputes between member states, especially between Britain and France, over maritime and fishery issues. Britain has now left the EU, but problems remain outstanding with European countries, including France. Fishing issues with France date back to 2018, prior to the UK withdrawal from the EU.

Scallops are a valuable trade and only mackerel and prawn fishing is worth more to the UK. Scallop dredges have metal teeth that dig into the seabed and flip scallops out of the sand into the nets. All this has led to battles between British and French ships over access to fishing grounds in the Bay of Seine off the coast of Normandy in northern France.

In the so-called “Scallop wars”, this conflict saw 40 small French boats chase five larger British ships. Stones were thrown and ships collided, but there were no injuries or sinking ships. Though what they were doing was legal in this case, the fleet of large British vessels does not always help itself. The seemingly informal agreement resolved the conflict between France and England.

Conflict Between France and England After Brexit

The fishing industry plays a vital role in the Atlantic Ocean. It has been expanding since the 16th century because it serves both domestic and foreign markets. The industry also supplies protein to a growing population and is very profitable at low prices. In addition, it creates employment, especially for the indigenous people of the region.

Under the CFP, member states have equal privileges to fish in one another’s inshore waters somewhere in the range of 6 and 12 nm. The UK thus approaches the coastal waters of other member states, including Germany, France, the Netherlands and Ireland. There are clashing perspectives on whether the London Convention keeps applying or regardless of whether privileges are subsumed as a feature of the CFP.

A study by the NAFC Marine Centre at the University of the Highlands and Islands estimates that an average of 58% of fish and shellfish in UK waters were caught by fishing boats from other EU countries annually between 2012 and 2014.

Reports show that about 650,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish are worth over £400 million each year. The estimate for UK fishing boats was landings of an average of 90,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth £100 million, caught in the waters of other EU member states every year. The Marine Management Organisation estimates that in 2015, UK fishing boats landed between 94,000 and 149,000 tonnes of fish from the Exclusive Economic Zones of other EU member states, worth £90-169 million. The report suggests that about 16% of all fish and shellfish landed by UK vessels in the UK and abroad caught in other EU member states’ water.

According to studies by Brexit on the UK fishing industry, the UK will benefit the most from the deal. There were 4,000 businesses in the fishing industry in 2016, employing 24,000 people and contributing 104 104 billion. But after Brexit, Britain’s share of the free waters and the consequences of the fishing industry’s exit from the European Union had to be determined.

The fisheries are managed under common law in Britain and the European Union. The policy is to ensure that fishing is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and allow fishers to compete fairly.

The United Kingdom, like Norway and Iceland, wants to take full responsibility for its fishing so they can legally monopolise up to 200 nautical miles offshore, meaning Britain will have more access to fish, which contradicts the rules of the European Union.

At one point, French authorities seized a British angling trawler, provoking the government in London to summon France’s envoy for talks, leading to months of rising pressure between the two countries. The encounter was the most recent in an arrangement of cross-channel flare-ups over post-Brexit angling rights that have raised allegations of no confidence, dangers and indeed a brief maritime standoff between the two NATO partners. Thursday’s move will likely feed pressures in French-British issues that have ended up progressively frayed as both countries have attempted to characterise an unused relationship after Britain’s flight final year from the European Union.


Due to their geographical location, Britain and France have fought long wars with each other throughout history. The European Union has made it possible for member states to avoid problems to some extent. But in 2016, the EU went into shock when the UK decided to leave the union. With the disbanding of common interests, it was no longer clear how Britain would react in the future. Fishing, which is of mutual interest to France and Britain, was a problem even before Brexit. This has not been resolved definitively and continues to date. The conflict between France and England seems to add to Britain’s other tensions with EU countries to the extent that the consequences may affect the UK’s maritime trade.

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