Status: 10/28/2021 2:48 p.m.
The dispute over fishing licenses between France and Great Britain is coming to a head: While Paris is threatening sanctions and arresting a British cutter, London is speaking of a violation of international law.
The dispute over fishing rights as a result of Brexit is increasingly affecting British-French relations. Following yesterday’s threat from France not to allow British fishing boats to enter French ports until the beginning of next week without an agreement, Great Britain is now speaking of a possible violation of international law. The British government also threatened retaliation if France took threatened measures.
“The threats from France are disappointing and disproportionate and not what we would expect from a close ally and partner,” said the British government. The planned measures seem to be “incompatible” with the Brexit agreement “and broader international law”.
France is demanding more licenses
The background to the dispute is the issue of fishing licenses. Paris complains that the British authorities are not granting French fishermen enough permits for their waters in the English Channel. As a result of Great Britain’s exit from the EU, an agreement was signed between London and Brussels, according to which European fishermen are only allowed to continue fishing in British waters with a permit. In order to obtain a license, a fisherman must prove that he was previously active in these waters.
In the meantime, further permits have been granted. France believes, however, that it has only received 50 percent of the licenses to which it is entitled, said French government spokesman Gabriel Attal.
Further measures cannot be ruled out
France also threatened to tighten customs, security and other controls on British boats and trucks traveling between the two countries. In addition, there could be measures aimed at energy supplies to Great Britain, Attal threatened after a cabinet meeting yesterday.
British Brexit Minister David Frost replied on Twitter: “It is very disappointing that France considers it necessary to threaten the British fishing industry and, it appears, traders in general, late in the evening.” He will now seek clarification in Paris, and he is also considering “what measures we should take in view of this information”.
British boat arrested
France also arrested a British cutter on Thursday. A second boat was cautioned because it was said to have been sailing in French waters without a license. The French Minister for Fisheries, Annick Girardin, said that the boat had been confiscated during an inspection near Le Havre because it had fished illegally there. “It’s not a war, but it’s a fight,” she told RTL radio.
The British government was irritated by this step and asked for the matter to be resolved. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the British ambassador to France was already in talks with the French minister for Europe.
British waters are among the richest in fish in the North Atlantic and account for most of the EU catch. The negotiations between the EU Commission and the government in London on the specific structure of the fishery continued this week. The fisheries were the most sensitive issue in the exit negotiations, alongside the status of Northern Ireland.
Fisheries dispute between Paris and London
Sabine Wachs, ARD Paris, October 28, 2021 1:46 p.m.