UK, France at loggerheads over post-Brexit fishing rights

The U.K. and France are at loggerheads again over fishing rights in the English Channel

In the latest post-Brexit dispute between the two countries, France urged the British government to allow more small French boats to fish in U.K. territorial waters. The U.K. announced Tuesday that it had approved only 12 out of 47 new license applications.

Authorities on the island of Jersey also turned down license applications Wednesday 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 U.K. 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.

France considers the restrictions as contrary to the post-Brexit agreement that the British government signed with the European Union.

French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin said France and the EU would work on potential “retaliatory measures” over the next two weeks unless the U.K. provided ways to resolve the dispute quickly.

Paris is considering measures that would involve energy and trade, as well as train connections and British students living in France, Girardin said after a meeting with fishing representatives.

She called on other European countries to show solidarity “because what France is going through today, some others will also go through it.”

Romain Davodet, a fisherman from Carteret, in Normandy, said that 37% of the licenses French applicants had requested were definitively granted. “It is not normal,” he said.

Since the U.K. 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 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 U.K. and the U.S.

Months earlier, 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 might lead to something similar occurring again.

A more detailed look at Jersey's decision showed the island's government granted 64 licenses of the 170 French boats which applied. Another 31 boats are receiving temporary licenses to give them more time to prove they have a track record of fishing in Jersey waters and meet Jersey's interpretation of the U.K.-EU trade deal.

Boats not granted a license were 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," Jersey’s external relations minister, Ian Gorst, said.

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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Pylas reported from London.

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