French threaten retaliation over refusal of post-Brexit fishing licences

AFP - [email protected] • 29 Sep, 2021 Updated Wed 29 Sep 2021 08:28 CEST
French threaten retaliation over refusal of post-Brexit fishing licences
French fishing boats return home following their protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit, on May 6, 2021. - Around 50 French fishing boats gathered to protest at the main port of the UK island of Jersey on May 6, 2021, amid fresh tensions between France and Britain over fishing. The boats massed in front of the port of Saint Helier to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit, an AFP photographer at the scene said. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

Britain said on Tuesday it would grant 12 out of 47 applications for new licences to small boats from the European Union to fish in its waters, provoking an angry response from France.


French fisherman have become increasingly angry over how Britain has controlled access for EU boats into its waters after it exited the bloc.

London says it has pursued a "reasonable approach", issuing nearly 1,700 licences to EU boats to fish in Britain's exclusive economic zone, which is defined as being 12-200 nautical miles from the coast.

A total of 117 have been issued for the 6-12 mile zone.

"As regards the 6-12 mile zone..., EU vessels must provide evidence of a track record of fishing activity in those waters," the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We have been considering applications for vessels of under 12 metres in length to fish in this zone and, on the basis of the evidence available, we are able to grant licences for 12 of the 47 applications made."

But French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin called it "a new British refusal to apply the conditions of the Brexit accord".

Her only remaining priority was to get the licences for French fishermen, "as provided for by the agreement", she added.

"French fishing must not be held hostage by the British for political ends."

France's Europe minister Clement Beaune added: "We understand and share the exasperation of our fishermen.

"We cannot cooperate in confidence with the UK until the agreement is respected.

"We will not hesitate to take retaliatory action, collectively."



Britain said the other applications had been rejected because of insufficient evidence the boats had fished in the area between 2012 and 2016, as stipulated in the post-Brexit agreement reached last year between London and Brussels.

London insisted its "approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA)".

The list of successful vessels is due to be published on Wednesday.

France said 87 applications have been made, with the discrepancy revolving around licences for vessels that replaced older boats that had previously fished in the area.

Britain and France are also at loggerheads over fishing rights in the British Channel islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

In May, as tensions over access to the self-governing crown dependencies boiled over, French trawlers briefly encircled Jersey's main port.

Tuesday's news comes 48 hours before dozens of French fishermen's licences were due to expire for fishing there.

Jersey has offered to extend some of those licences on a provisional basis until the end of January 2022, while those concerned sort out the paperwork.

Guernsey meanwhile has simply renewed licences on a month-to-month basis.

Paris said it was waiting for definitive answers on 169 licence requests from the Jersey authorities, and 168 requests from Guernsey.

But there is increasing anger among French fishermen's groups, with some calling for retaliatory measures against British boats.


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stuart.laing 2021/09/29 21:14
The relevant French minister is now threatening retaliation against 'trade flows, British exchange students resident in France and energy supplies.' She seems incapable of dealing with an issue on its own merits and seems unaware that the Agreement is between the EU and UK and that France is not a party to it. If the French carry on like this, trying to bludgeon their way to the result they want, there will come a point at which any form of co-operation with France at any level will be avoided since it will only be used against the UK further down the line.
steverounce 2021/09/29 18:05
It also smacks of the school bully stealing sweets in the playground. France’s reaction to the Aussie submarine deal cancellation omits the fact that the cost overruns had about doubled the price. And Macron accused the UK of cherry-picking!
harcourt.thomas1 2021/09/29 10:46
The french fishermen shouldn't have been turning off their transponders for all those years, serves them right.
stuart.laing 2021/09/29 10:41
Funny how none of the other EU countries have a problem with UK licensing. Jersey fishermen blame the French for not keeping logs of their previous catches as that suited them at the time but not now. I think it's incumbent on the French ministers continuously slagging off Britain in this process to actually demonstrate what UK is doing wrong. Perhaps an example of a completed licence application that has then been rejected. Simple assertion that they're being wronged the whole time is getting very tiresome and losing any effect it might have had.

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