Guernsey issues post-Brexit fishing licences to French boats

Guernsey on Wednesday issued fishing licences to 40 French boats, in the latest move over post-Brexit access rights that has seen Paris and London at loggerheads and blockades threatened.

Guernsey issues post-Brexit fishing licences to French boats
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

Some 58 vessels sent applications, together with positional and catch data, of which 40 – all registered in either Brittany or Normandy – were approved, with another three to be issued later, Guernsey authorities said.

The issue of post-Brexit fishing licences for the UK’s inshore waters and around the Channel Islands has become a fraught one for governments in Paris and London.

Under a deal agreed by London and Brussels late last year, European fishing vessels can continue to ply UK waters if they operated there in the past and apply for new licences.

Guernsey’s authorities had so far renewed licences on an interim, month-to-month, basis as it considered the applications, avoiding the tensions seen over licences from the UK and Jersey governments.

In May, as tensions in the Channel boiled over, French trawlers briefly encircled Jersey’s main port.

Guernsey and Jersey are not part of the UK, both as self-governing crown dependencies, but access to their waters has become part of the post-Brexit negotiations. 

The licences announced on Wednesday will enable 40 vessels to continue to fish in Guernsey waters from February 2022.

Licences for a further three vessels will be issued in “due course”, officials said.

The remaining 15 vessels on the interim list will be able to fish until January 31st, 2022.

After that, they will no longer be allowed, unless they can provide evidence that they historically fished in the waters.

“We have reached a significant milestone in our licensing roadmap announced back in September,” said Guernsey official Jonathan Le Tocq.

“We value our good relationships with Normandy, Brittany and La Manche, and I hope that today’s announcement provides welcome certainty and stability in this new era,” he added.

France’s fisheries minister, Annick Girardin, said the granting of the licences was “excellent news for our fishermen”.

Progress had been made with Guernsey, she added, but said “the fight is not over: 111 licences are still outstanding”, mostly from Jersey and London.

The EU has given Britain until December 10th to resolve the issue.

French fishermen last week disrupted cross-Channel traffic for several hours in protest at the post-Brexit fishing rights granted by Britain.

Half a dozen fishing boats blocked access to ferries at the northern port of Calais and the port of Ouistreham in Normandy to the southwest.

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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

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The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.