France accuses Britain of taking fishermen hostage for political ends
France on Wednesday accused Britain of playing politics with post-Brexit fishing rights after London and the Channel Island of Jersey denied dozens of French fishing vessel licenses to operate in their territorial waters.
Britain said it was open to further discussions with the boats it had rejected, adding that they had not submitted evidence of their operating history in the waters, which was necessary for continue to fish in the 6 to 12 nautical mile zone.
French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin has said Britain is breaking the Brexit deal.
“This is another British refusal to implement the terms of the Brexit deal despite all the work we have done together,” she said in a statement. “French fishing should not be taken hostage by the British for political ends.”
The government of President Emmanuel Macron has threatened retaliatory measures.
Jean-Pierre Pont, a lawmaker from the port of Boulogne in northern France, said fishermen could prevent trucks from boarding Channel Tunnel trains bound for Britain. “Our fishermen want to fish in the sea on the terms agreed upon during Brexit,” Pont said.
Fishing and controlling UK waters was a hot topic in the 2016 UK referendum on leaving the EU. But British fishermen have since accused the government of selling them by allowing international boats to continue fishing there.
Britain said it has licensed nearly 1,700 vessels to fish in the 12-200 nautical mile zone, and 105 more licenses have been issued for vessels to fish in the 6 to 12 nautical mile zone where the evidence supported a balance sheet.
Britain and France both deployed maritime patrol vessels to waters off Jersey earlier this year after a flotilla of French trawlers sailed in protest to the Isle of Channel, claiming that they were unfairly excluded from the rich fishing grounds.
Jersey said it was issuing 64 full licenses and 31 temporary licenses in addition to the 47 vessels already authorized earlier this year, but had rejected requests for 75 fishing vessels.
All unlicensed vessels will be required to cease fishing in Jersey waters within 30 days. The island, an autonomous dependency of the British Crown, lies 23 km off the north coast of France and 140 km south of the British coast.
“These boats which are economically dependent on Jersey waters, which have fished here regularly before and have demonstrated it, will receive licenses,” Channel Island Environment Minister John Young said in a statement. .