Brexit: France threatens sanctions against Britain over fishing licences row

‘Our patience is reaching its limits,’ French government spokesperson says

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 27 October 2021 17:52
<p>Net loss: French fishermen at Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France </p>

Net loss: French fishermen at Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France

France has warned of possible sanctions against Britain including a ban on seafood imports and disrupting trade amid an escalating row over “missing” post-Brexit fishing licences.

The retaliatory measures come after ten European countries joined France in condemning the UK government’s approach, expressing frustration over the high barriers set for fisherman to get licences – which they say goes beyond the Brexit agreement.

Earlier this month, Emmanuel Macron’s government also threatened to use energy as a way to “put pressure” on the British government, which “depends on our energy supplies”.

Unless London grants more licences, Paris suggested it could escalate customs checks and disrupt trade, including “systematic customs and sanitary checks on products brought into France and a ban on landing seafood”.

According to Reuters news agency, government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said France was drawing up a list of possible sanctions that could be made public on Thursday and come into effect next week – unless progress is made on licences.

“Our patience is reaching its limits,” he said, adding they won’t let Britain “wipe its shoes on the Brexit deal”.

Speaking earlier this month, French Europe minister Clement Beaune said the county was exasperated by restrictions on fishing fleets, warning that if diplomatic channels failed to find a solution “we take measures”.

The stark comments from the French minister was triggered by a row over access for French fishing fleets to territorial waters around Jersey – a British Crown dependency.

Under the deal agreed last year, EU fishermen can continue to access UK waters if they can prove they were previously working in the area.

According to The Times, Mr Attal added that around “50 per cent” of licences France has the right to were “missing”, warning: “This is a situation that is not acceptable and I say clear that our patience has run out”.

The UK government, however, stressed that “98 per cent of fishing licences have been granted”, adding: “We continue to work with the French government on granting more based on the evidence they provide”.

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