Britain said Tuesday it would grant 12 out of 47 applications for new licences to small boats from the European Union to fish in its waters, provoking an angry response from France.
French fisherman have become increasingly angry over how Britain has controlled access for EU boats into its waters after it exited the bloc.
London says it has pursued a “reasonable approach”, issuing nearly 1,700 licences to EU boats to fish in Britain’s exclusive economic zone, which is defined as being 12-200 nautical miles from the coast.
A total of 117 have been issued for the 6-12 mile zone.
“As regards the 6-12 mile zone…, EU vessels must provide evidence of a track record of fishing activity in those waters,” the government said in a statement Tuesday.
“We have been considering applications for vessels of under 12 metres in length to fish in this zone and, on the basis of the evidence available, we are able to grant licences for 12 of the 47 applications made.”
But French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin called it “a new British refusal to apply the conditions of the Brexit accord”.
Her only remaining priority was to get the licences for French fishermen, “as provided for by the agreement”, she added.
“French fishing must not be held hostage by the British for political ends.”
– Channel Islands dispute –
Britain said the other applications had been rejected because of insufficient evidence the boats had fished in the area between 2012 and 2016, as stipulated in the post-Brexit agreement reached last year between London and Brussels.
London insisted its “approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA)”.
The list of successful vessels is due to be published on Wednesday.
France said 87 applications have been made, with the discrepancy revolving around licences for vessels that replaced older boats that had previously fished in the area.
Britain and France are also at loggerheads over fishing rights in the British Channel islands of Jersey and Guernsey.
In May, as tensions over access to the self-governing crown dependencies boiled over, French trawlers briefly encircled Jersey’s main port.
Tuesday’s news comes 48 hours before dozens of French fishermen’s licences were due to expire for fishing there.
Jersey has offered to extend some of those licences on a provisional basis until the end of January 2022, while those concerned sort out the paperwork.
Guernsey meanwhile has simply renewed licences on a month-to-month basis.
Paris said it was waiting for definitive answers on 169 licence requests from the Jersey authorities, and 168 requests from Guernsey.
But there is increasing anger among French fishermen’s groups, with some calling for retaliatory measures against British boats.
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