Europe

France vows to step up enforcement over UK fishery row

Republic says it will disrupt trade with UK and increase customs checks unless London agrees to grant more licenses to French fishermen

Cindi Cook   | 28.10.2021
France vows to step up enforcement over UK fishery row

PARIS 

France warned Wednesday that it will disrupt trade with Britain and increase customs checks starting Nov. 2 if London withholds the granting of licenses to more French fishermen, French news outlet France24 reported. 

In the wake of Brexit, disputes between the UK and France over the waters around the Channel Islands have been ongoing.

Wednesday’s strong-arming by France follows the rejection by its neighbor to the north of dozens of licenses for French fishermen to fish in the plentiful waters 6 to 12 nautical miles off England’s coast as well as those closer to the island of Jersey.

The latest figures from the beginning of October show that for the territorial waters, London has issued 100 licenses to French boats while rejecting 75, while in Jersey, 111 permanent licenses and 31 provisional licenses have been issued with 75 boats being rejected.

Overall, Britain has granted 1,700 licenses to French boats to fish in their exclusive economic zone, or the waters 12-200 miles off the English coast.

EU fishermen wanting to fish in the bountiful British waters had to apply for new licenses but be able to prove that they had worked previously in those waters in order to be granted them anew.

Gabriel Attal, France’s government spokesman, detailed the latest possible measures, saying the new protocols would include, “systematic customs and sanitary checks on products brought to France and a ban on landing seafood.”

Any new and stepped-up measures would harm British fishermen as well, since they are tremendously dependent on French ports, where a large part of their catch is landed and processed.

Although self-governing, the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey are dependent on London for navigation in the areas of foreign affairs and defense.

Wednesday’s row is only the latest the two powers have had over the past few months, with relations souring as a result. Retaliation had even gotten so strong at one point that France had threatened to cut off the electricity supply for Jersey, which it controls.

Britain was equally outspoken in its reaction, with UK government spokesman David Frost tweeting Wednesday evening that “France’s threats are disappointing and disproportionate, and not what we would expect from a close ally and partner.”

“The measures being threatened do not appear to be compatible with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and wider international law, and if carried through, will be met with an appropriate and calibrated response,” Frost said.

Frost went on to claim that 98% of license applications to fish in their waters had been granted and all of their decisions had been fully in line with their commitment under the TCA.

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