The National:

SIMPLICITY has never been a feature of Brexit. Although many of the arguments made for it were simplistic, leaving the EU was a profound constitutional change. Its legacy will affect us for decades to come.

In its rejection of European partnership, Brexit has brought us numerous negative consequences. The UK Government’s decision to seek only a minimal EU-UK relationship has significantly worsened matters.

Oftentimes, the consequences of Brexit are experienced locally and privately – individuals making undesired changes to their lives; businesses, organisations and governments making unwelcome revisions of their expectations. Society continues, but less enriched.

A select number of those consequences captures wider public and political attention. The current dispute between France and the UK over fishing rights is one such case. Moreover, it is an individual episode situated in a much larger and more consequential context.

READ MORE: Fishing row escalates as UK warns France of retaliation over post-Brexit dispute

Fisheries were a contentious issue in the future relationship negotiations. The EU wanted to maintain as much fishing access to the UK’s waters (including those of Scotland) as possible. The UK Government wanted to be seen to have limited that access. This area remains contentious.

The EU member states with fishing fleets affected by Brexit – including France, Ireland and Denmark – have had to adapt to new arrangements. Some transition periods have been provided, but the overall direction is less access, less quota and potentially less predictability.

The dispute in question relates, in short, to whether several dozen small French fishing boats can operate in the territorial waters of Jersey. Yet it reflects frustration in France and the wider EU with having to deal with the impacts of Brexit – something they neither sought nor supported.

The practical difficulties of Brexit have been compounded by the UK Government’s consistent drive to make leaving the EU appear normal and successful. In doing so, it has often seemed to have discounted the evident reality that the EU has its own interests and concerns.

Where Brexit negatively affects EU members, it can also impact on their domestic politics. The state of fishing communities plays a notable role in French politics. All parties in the current dispute are responsible for their own actions. Nevertheless, its genesis derives from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the UK Government’s choice of a remote future relationship and its ramshackle approach to the process from start to finish.

Overall, the EU-UK relationship is not in a good state. The negotiations on implementing the Northern Ireland protocol remain difficult. This fishing issue, if it continues, will only add to tensions.

The European Commission is seeking to mediate in the France-UK dispute. However, it is more challenging for it to perform that role – because it is no longer neutral. The Commission represents the common interests of the European Union. France is part of the EU; the UK is not.

Nor is the France-UK bilateral relationship in ideal condition. The two states have a close partnership. They work together in international forums, including the UN Security Council, and directly on defence and security, among many other areas. Yet Brexit has changed much.

READ MORE: Scotland to set up own 'Erasmus scheme' after Brexit cost place in EU project

Mainstream French politicians have long openly recognised Brexit for what it is – a repudiation of the European Union and European cooperation. While Berlin has often sought to preserve a cordial facade to relations with the UK, Paris has been more forthright in the belief that the difference between being in the EU and outside the EU must be felt.

The UK Government’s role in the AUKUS submarine deal, as part of its haphazard post-Brexit foreign policy, has further strained relations between France and the UK. When bilateral affairs are in such a condition, the threshold for a new diplomatic dispute is not that high.

In France, as in other parts of Europe, fishing industries are a vocal constituency which exercises disproportionate influence relative to its economic size. Fishing rights are a highly emotive issue, often connected to national identity. Brexit has brought unavoidable change for the worse.

It is natural that such change would influence French politics. The next French presidential election is scheduled for April 2022 and, of course, that fact is an active feature of political developments in Paris. Yet those circumstances do not negate the consequences of Brexit which France is currently experiencing – or the reality that the UK is the cause of them.

Anthony Salamone is Managing Director of European Merchants, the political analysis firm in Edinburgh.