UK, France at loggerheads over post-Brexit fishing rights

AP , Wednesday 29 Sep 2021

The UK and France are at loggerheads again over fishing rights in the English Channel _ the latest post-Brexit spat between the two countries.

UK-France fishing rights
File Photo: Fisherman Nicolas Bishop works on the Boulogne sur Mer based trawler Jeremy Florent II in Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. AP

A day after the UK announced it had approved only 12 out of 47 applications for new licenses for small French boats to fish in its territorial waters, the authorities on the island of Jersey turned down license applications from 75 French boats to operate in its waters.

Jersey, which is only 14 miles (22 kilometers) off the French coast, is a British Crown dependency outside of the UK As such, it has its own powers with regard to who is allowed to fish in its territorial waters.

The license refusals prompted anger from French authorities.

``These decisions are totally unacceptable and inadmissible,`` French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said Wednesday, warning about potential ``retaliatory measures`` from the European Union's 27 nations. Attal said the restrictions are contrary to the post-Brexit agreement that was signed between Britain and the EU.

The French government intends to work with the European Commission to find a solution, Attal said. He expressed solidarity with the French fishermen, saying he understands their anger because they had provided ``all the justifications'' to get their licenses.

France's maritime minister, Annick Girardin, convened a meeting with fishing representatives Wednesday to prepare a response.

``French fishing should not be taken hostage by the British for political ends,'' she said.

Since the UK left the economic orbit of the EU at the start of the year, relations between London and Paris have become increasingly frayed.

The fishing spat comes just weeks after Paris was left furious by the decision of Australia to cancel an multibillion-dollar order for French submarines following a new defense pact with the UK and the US.

It also comes months after the French threatened to cut off power supplies to Jersey, which gets 95% of its electricity from France.

At the time, dozens of French boats surrounded the island's main port, St Helier. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even sent two Royal Navy patrol boats to Jersey.

The worry is that Jersey's latest decision may lead to something similar occurring again.

A more detailed look at Jersey's decision shows that the government granted 64 licenses of the 170 French boats which applied.

A further 31 are being issued with temporary licenses to allow them more time to show they have a track record of fishing in Jersey waters in line with what Jersey said is consistent with the UK's post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. Boats not granted a license were being given 30 days to get out of Jersey's waters.

``We will continue to have an open door to further data and evidence of fishing activity, including for vessels which have already been considered, and we look forward to working collaboratively to resolve the remaining complex issues,`` said Jersey's external relations minister, Ian Gorst.

On Tuesday, the British government also said it would also consider any further evidence supplied to support the remaining French license applications

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