UK grants 23 additional post-Brexit permits to French fishermen ·

Updated 3 hours ago

Britain has granted 23 more licenses to French fishermen, a British government spokesman said on Saturday, a day after a deadline set by Paris to resolve a post-Brexit battle over fishing rights.

The European Union had set a December 10 deadline for London to grant licenses to dozens of French fishing boats under a Brexit deal signed last year, with Paris threatening European legal action if there is no breakthrough.

The licenses were agreed on Friday night after British officials met their EU counterparts and took what the spokesman described as an «evidence-based approach» to ensuring that ships qualified to operate in UK waters.

The spokesperson added that the approach «provides stability and ensures the sustainability of our fisheries», with the UK granted 18 licenses and Channel Island in Jersey five.

The European Union hailed the deal as an «important step in a long process» towards implementing the 2020 Brexit deal and said work continued to license seven more ships by Monday.

But France said it would «continue to work» to obtain another 80 licenses it insists its fishing fleet deserves.

France had earlier said 104 of its boats still lacked licenses to operate in British and Channel Island waters that should have been granted under the Brexit deal.

With 23 permits granted on Saturday, France is still seeking 81 approvals received in total 1,027 so far.

Under the deal, EU fishermen can continue to work in British waters if they can prove they used to fish there.

«This work has accelerated in recent days,» French Fisheries Minister Annick Girardin and European Minister Clement Bonn said.

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«France and the European Union continue to work together to ensure the full implementation of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement,» they said in a joint statement.

protest action

Paris had threatened to file a complaint with the European Commission over the dispute.

This could have resulted in the European Union imposing financial sanctions or even tariffs on British goods if Britain were judged to have abandoned its commitments.

About 83 ships have received licenses since the European Union tried to ramp up negotiations on the pending orders in late November, according to Brussels.

French fishermen last month disrupted ferry and shipping movement through the canals in protest of post-Brexit arrangements and the consequent loss of trade.

Six fishing boats were denied access to ferries in the northern port of Calais and the port of Osterham in Normandy to the west.

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In May, French trawlers protested in front of the main port of Jersey and caused a brief confrontation with the ships of the Royal Navy.

The UK relies heavily on French ports, particularly for fresh food imports, and any extended blockade would have a significant impact.

The European Union and Britain are also locked in a separate trade dispute over checks over products entering the British province of Northern Ireland after the UK government unilaterally delayed the introduction of the checks.

The dispute has exacerbated deteriorating bilateral relations between Britain and France, which have clashed this year over migrant crossings in the English Channel, post-Brexit trade arrangements and submarine sales to Australia.

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The British announcement comes a day before EU fisheries ministers meet in Brussels on Sunday to decide on annual catch quotas in European waters.

The European Union is in separate talks with the United Kingdom in order to set annual fishing quotas in their shared waters by the end of December.

© AFP 2021

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