French politicians put pressure on the EU Commission to take action in the dispute over fishing licences for UK waters

French politicians put pressure on the EU Commission to take action in the dispute over fishing licences for UK waters

France has declared that bilateral deals with the UK are at risk over the current fishing dispute between the two countries. 

French PM, Jean Castex has urged stronger action from the European Union in a dispute with the Westminster government over the issuing of fishing licences to their fleet for access to UK waters. 

On Tuesday, 28 September, the UK notified France the EU that it will only be issuing 12 licences to boats out of 47 new applications made, which has caused a deepening rift to become more serious. 

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On Wednesday, 29 September, the Jersey government in Saint Helier said it will issue 64 full licences and 31 temporary licences, in addition to the 47 vessels already given permission earlier this year adding that a total of 75 applications were refused.  

The French PM has told his lawmakers in the National Assembly that the UK is not respecting its commitments on fishing under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed at the end of December last year. 

“Britain does not respect its own signature. Month after month, the UK presents new conditions and delays giving definitive licences […] this cannot be tolerated,” Castex said. 

The prime minister said he had asked the EU Commission for a tougher stance on the matter, saying that “if that does not work we will go the [Brexit deal] arbitration panel to get the British to keep their word and, more broadly, we will question all the conditions of the implementation of accords with the EU and also, if necessary, the bilateral cooperation we have with the UK.” 

The French have again threatened to cut power to the Channel Islands as part of an escalation of action against the British. A sequence of statements from Paris indicated that French patience on the issue had run out as bilateral disagreements on a host of issues seem to run out of control. 

France “will not stand for this,” European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told the Europe 1 broadcaster. 

“For example, you could imagine the Channel Islands, where the United Kingdom depends on us for its energy supply…,” Beaune said. 

Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey are close to France, which supplies them with electricity. 

In May this year, a flotilla of around 50 French vessels from the north coast of France protested at St Helier on Jersey Island over the issue of licensing. 

Since then, French fishermen have applied for new access licences, but they have complained of onerous paperwork and a requirement to prove they had fished in British and Jersey waters before Brexit, not always an easy task, especially for smaller boats that are not required to be equipped with tracking devices such as AIS. 

“Our patience has clear limits,” Beaune said. “We’ve negotiated calmly and nicely for nine months now, that’s enough.” 

He added: “They think they can live all by themselves and, what’s more, lash out at Europe. And because that’s not working, they raise the stakes and become aggressive.” 

The Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries, Pierre Karleskind also waded in on the dispute tweeting, “We are not giving up on licences! Mobilized around Annick Girardin and C Beaune to enforce trade and cooperation agreement.” 

Mr Karleskind has also been in contact with the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius on the issue of obatining licences for French fishers. 

Minister de la Mer, Annick Girardin said, “15 days to get permanent fishing permits in the standoff with the UK… The plan of action is clear: to gather our partners and engage in the necessary response!”

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French politicians prepare to fight UK over fishing licences dispute 

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