France has accused the UK of breaking the UK–EU pact on post-Brexit relations after most applications by French fishermen to fish in British waters were rejected.
The French government reacted angrily on Tuesday after it emerged that, out of 47 French applications for small fishing boats to operate in the UK’s territorial sea, just 12 fishing licences were granted.
France’s minister for the sea Annick Girardin, quoted in Le Monde, said: “It is a new refusal of the British to apply the conditions of the Brexit accord despite all the work undertaken together.”
“I have only one watchword; to obtain definitive licences for our fishermen as the accord foresees,” she said. “French fishing must not be taken hostage by the British for political ends.”
French minister for Europe Clement Beaune said his government “will not hesitate to take retaliatory action, collectively.”
“We understand and share the exasperation of our fishermen,” he was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying.
The UK’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said its approach had been “reasonable and fully in line with our commitments” under the post-Brexit trade deal.
The row deepened further on Wednesday, when the government of Jersey said that of the 170 French boats which applied for licences, 75 had been rejected.
In reaction, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said: “These decisions are totally unacceptable and inadmissible.”
He said the ruling ran counter to the post-Brexit trade deal which Britain signed with the EU and that France would seek support from Brussel for potential “retaliatory measures.”
Jersey’s external relations minister Ian Gorst said they have taken “a pragmatic, reasonable and evidence-based approach” on this issue.
The Jersey government said 64 French boats had their applications approved while a further 31 had been granted temporary licences to allow them more time to prove they have a track record of fishing in Jersey waters in line with the UK’s trade deal with the EU.
Those boats which were not granted a licence were being given 30 days’ notice, after which they would no longer be allowed access to the island’s waters.
The dispute over fishing rights has lasted for several months.
In May, French minister Girardin said she was “disgusted” to learn that Jersey had issued 41 licences with unilaterally imposed conditions, and threatened to cut off electricity supplies to Jersey, which imports 95 percent of its electricity from France.
French fishing boats gathered near Jersey in protest against the restrictions, and the UK government dispatched two Royal Navy ships to the island in response.
PA contributed to this report.