Three-quarters of small French fishing boats could be denied access to British waters under a post-Brexit regime, a move that puts at risk further damaging Anglo-French relations.
The UK government had granted only 12 out of a total of 47 license applications for French vessels under 12 meters in length to fish in UK coastal waters.
Responding to the government announcement Tuesday night,
French Maritime Affairs Minister Annick Girardin condemned the decision. “It is a new refusal by the British to implement the conditions of the Brexit agreement despite all the work we have done together,” he said in a statement. “The British should not take French fishing hostage for political purposes.”
France was reportedly awaiting responses to requests for fishing licenses in the Channel Islands, where they were to deliver 168 from Guernsey and 169 from Jersey, which is expected to make a statement on Wednesday.
France’s European Minister, Clément Beaune, had said at a French parliamentary hearing last week: “We are at the end of our patience. We continue our fight. “He accused the UK of being” unsportsmanlike “in handling license applications.
France and Britain had experienced heightened diplomatic tensions during the summer due to the number of small boats carrying migrants crossing the Channel.
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and French President Emmanuel Macron, had also publicly disagreed on the UK’s decision signing the Aukus defense pact, which cost France a billions of dollars worth of submarines contract.
In May, France’s response to post-Brexit fishing restrictions around the island of Jersey it was described as “quite close to an act of war” by the leaders of the fishing community in St. Helier.
They said they had been told that 100 ships were lined up in France on May 6 for a 6 a.m. blockade at Channel Island’s main port, threatening food and power supplies.
A UK government spokesperson said: “Our approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the trade and cooperation agreement.”