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France and UK at loggerheads once again over fishing licences

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France has accused the UK of failing to honour the Brexit agreement concerning fishing licences, with dozens of French licences set to expire.

The UK announced on Tuesday it would grant 12 additional licences, a number far off the one demanded by France.

The post-Brexit agreement negotiated with the European Union provided that EU fishermen could continue to fish in certain British waters if they obtained a licence.

The licence would be granted if they could prove they were fishing there before.

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The UK, and the semi-autonomous Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, have not granted all the licences requested by French boats, causing tension between the two countries.

France had demanded 47 new licences be granted for a zone close to the British coast, but the UK only granted 12.

In total, including the authorisations previously issued by London, 100 licences out of 175 have been granted, according to the French Ministry of the Sea.

“This is a new refusal by the British to apply the conditions of the Brexit agreement despite all the work undertaken together,” said Annick Girardin, the French Minister for the Sea.

“I have only one watchword left: to obtain definitive licences for our fishermen as provided for in the agreement. French fishing must not be taken hostage by the British for political purposes.”

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Many provisional licences for the waters of Jersey and Guernsey are set to expire on 30 September.

In a gesture of appeasement, the government of Jersey, a few miles off the coast of Normandy, announced on Friday that it would grant authorisations to European Union vessels and renew provisional licences that expire in 48 hours, until 31 January 2022, for those who have difficulty gathering the required proof.

This new deadline was not well received by French fishermen.

In total, Paris is still awaiting replies to 169 requests for definitive authorisations in Jersey and 168 in Guernsey.

At the beginning of May, dozens of Norman and Breton fishermen’s boats had massed in the port of Saint-Hélier in Jersey to defend their right to continue fishing in these waters, causing London to send two patrol boats for a few hours.

This outburst led to the extension of the deadlines without changing anything in substance: European fleets will have to give up 25% of their catches in British waters at the end of a transition period running until June 2026.

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