PARIS — The United Kingdom and France are at odds again over fishing rights in the English Channel — the latest post-Brexit dispute between the two countries.
A day after the UK announced it had only approved 12 of 47 applications for new French small boat licenses to fish in its territorial waters, authorities on the island of Jersey have refused the license applications of 75 French boats to operate in its waters.
Jersey, which is only 14 miles off the coast of France, is a British Crown dependency outside the United Kingdom. As such, it has its own powers regarding who is allowed to fish in its territorial waters.
The refusals of permits angered the French authorities.
“These decisions are totally unacceptable and inadmissible,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said last week, warning against possible “retaliatory measures” from the 27 countries of the European Union. Attal said the restrictions are against the post-Brexit deal that was signed between Britain and the EU.
The French government intends to work with the European Commission to find a solution, Attal said. He expressed his solidarity with the French fishermen, saying he understood their anger because they had provided “all the justifications” to obtain their licenses.
French Maritime Affairs Minister Annick Girardin called a meeting with fisheries officials last week to prepare a response.
“French fishing must not be held hostage by the British for political purposes,” she said.
Since the UK left the economic orbit of the EU earlier this year, relations between London and Paris have become increasingly frayed.
The fishing spat comes just weeks after Paris was infuriated by Australia’s decision to cancel a multi-billion dollar order for French submarines after a new defense pact with the UK and the United States.
It also comes months after the French threatened to cut power to Jersey, which gets 95% of its electricity from France. At the time, dozens of French boats surrounded the main port of the island, Saint-Hélier. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even sent two Royal Navy patrol boats to Jersey.
The concern is that Jersey’s latest decision could lead to something similar happening again.
A more detailed look at the Jersey decision shows the government granted 64 licenses out of the 170 French boats that applied. 31 others are being issued temporary licenses to give them more time to show they have a history of fishing in Jersey waters in line with what Jersey has declared to be in line with the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. Unlicensed boats had 30 days to leave Jersey waters.
“We will continue to have the door open to new data and evidence of fishing activity, including for vessels that have already been considered, and we look forward to working collaboratively to resolve the remaining complex issues,” Jersey External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said. .
Recently, the UK government also said it would also consider any other evidence provided to support the remaining French license applications.