So long, and merci for all the fish: New ‘Cod War’ brews as three in four small French boats are turned down for post-Brexit fishing licences
- Just 12 of the 47 EU small vessels that applied have been granted permission
- The move provoked threats of reprisals from the French government
- Jersey is set to announce how many EU boats it will allow to fish off its coast
- That could spark a repeat of the angry protests by French fishermen in May
A fresh row was brewing with France last night after ministers refused to let dozens of its boats fish off the UK coast.
Just 12 of the 47 EU small vessels that applied have been granted permission for post-Brexit fishing rights in UK waters, it emerged.
The majority were denied licences because they failed to provide evidence that they had fished in the six-to-12-mile nautical zone in the years before the UK’s referendum on leaving the EU.
But it provoked threats of reprisals from the French government over what they see as a betrayal of the last-gasp Brexit deal agreed last year.
The French government is threatening reprisals over what they see as a betrayal of the last-gasp Brexit deal agreed last year. Pictured: French President Emmanuel Macron
Today Jersey is set to announce how many EU boats it will allow to fish off its coast, which could spark a repeat of the angry protests by French fishermen earlier this year.
Last night EU affairs minister Clement Beaune told French TV: ‘We understand and we share the exasperation [of our fishermen] because it is simply unacceptable not to respect an agreement that has been signed. We will negotiate until the very last moment to renew some of these permits and obtain some more.
‘And yes, we have been saying at every level, including the president [Emmanuel Macron] to Prime Minister Johnson, that we cannot cooperate in confidence on other matters until they abide by the Brexit deal they signed.
‘I hope we do not end up in that position, but of course we have said that there are retaliatory measures which are possible according to the Brexit agreement.’
EU affairs minister Clement Beaune (pictured) told French TV: ‘We understand and we share the exasperation [of our fishermen] because it is simply unacceptable not to respect an agreement that has been signed’
Mr Beaune added: ‘Commercial measures on certain British products, for example. Or on energy matters. We have several areas in which the British depend more on us. And in this over-arching agreement, if they do not respect the part on fishing, we can take measures [against them] together as the European Union and we will not hesitate to do so.’ Olivier Le Nezet, president of Brittany fishermen’s committee, called the figure of 12 out of 47 a ‘declaration of war on the water and on the land’.
He added that French fishermen would make sure ‘not a single British product lands on French soil’.
In May the row over Channel fishing rights escalated when furious French skippers threatened to block UK goods from entering Calais.
Britain sent two Royal Navy gunships to Jersey after 100 French fishing boats vowed to block the island’s harbour.
And French minister Annick Girardin warned that Paris could cut off electricity to the island. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted last night that almost 1,700 larger French boats have already been allowed to fish off the coast of Britain.
A spokesman said: ‘The Government has this year issued a large number of licences to EU vessels seeking to fish in our exclusive economic zone (12-to-200 nautical mile zone) and our territorial sea (six-to-12 nautical mile zone).
‘Our approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
‘As regards the six-to-12 nautical miles zone, as set out in the TCA, EU vessels must provide evidence of a track record of fishing activity in those waters.’ They added: ‘We have been considering applications for vessels of under 12m (39ft) in length to fish in this zone.’