Fishing row: French minister demands 60 more licences

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Samantha Haynes

By Samantha Haynes

Published: 13/12/2021

- 18:33

France's European affairs minister warns negotiations on the remaining licences could go down the path of 'dialogue' or 'legal proceedings'

France has received 93% of the fishing licences it requested but wants Britain to issue a few dozen more, France’s European affairs minister has said.

It comes after the UK and Jersey Governments on Saturday granted further licences to French fishing boats in an apparent attempt to resolve the long-running dispute over their post-Brexit rights to trawl British waters, and as technical talks over several more vessels continue.

On Monday, Clement Beaune told French news channel CNews: “We still have a few dozen to obtain, around 60. We are looking at every file that remains. We will not let down any of these fishermen.”

Mr Beaune added that negotiations on the remaining licences could go down the path of “dialogue” or “legal proceedings”, echoing previous threats to press the European Union to instigate legal action against Britain if sufficient licences are not granted.

He praised the progress of the talks, noting that 93% of the requested licences had now been issued by Britain compared to 60% at the beginning of November.

That had not been achieved through Boris Johnson’s friendship, but through France’s “clear, firm threats” to the UK that “unlocked” the negotiations, the minister said.

The fishing row centres on licences to trawl in UK and Channel Islands waters under the terms of Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU – the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).

The main source of contention is the number of licences to fish in waters around the British coastline for smaller French vessels that can prove they operated there before Brexit.

The UK Government on Saturday said 18 more licences had been granted to replacement vessels that had been able to present “new evidence” of having previously fished British grounds, while Jersey had issued permanent licences to an additional five vessels.

Technical discussions on seven more licences for direct replacement vessels are expected to conclude on Monday or Tuesday, according to a Government spokesperson.

The Government will continue to act in line with the TCA and provide licences to French vessels that present sufficient evidence of historic fishing activity, the spokesperson said.

The end of the most intensive set of discussions with the EU had been reached, they added.

French fishermen reacted angrily at the number of additional licences issued by the UK and threatened to again block British goods from entering Calais.

The fishing committee for the northern Hauts-de-France region said: “Far from satisfying the professionals of the sector, this news exasperates the fishermen of Hauts-de-France, who feel both betrayed by the British government … and neglected by the European Commission”.

The organisation’s president, Olivier Lepretre, said: “Moves will be expected. Moves which will target the import of British products.”

He called the planned action a “continuation” of blockades of ports and ferry traffic across the Channel by French fishing crews on November 26.

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