French fishermen warn they could blockade Channel Tunnel and Port of Calais within two weeks

France has accused the UK of taking French fishing ‘hostage’ for ‘political ends’

Lamiat Sabin
Thursday 07 October 2021 14:03
<p>A fishing boat at work in the English Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)</p>

A fishing boat at work in the English Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Fishing industry leaders in France are threatening to take action against the UK in two weeks’ time if they are not granted a sufficient number of post-Brexit fishing licences.

Since the UK left the EU, French boats need to apply for licences to continue to operate within 12 miles of the UK and Jersey coasts.

In the latest round of applications, the UK granted just 12 licences from 47 bids for smaller vessels to fish in its territorial waters.

Overall, the UK has granted 117 EU licences for its inshore territorial waters and almost 1,700 EU vessels have been licensed to fish in the larger UK exclusive economic one, which stretches 200 nautical miles from shore.

French sea minister Annick Girardin reportedly said: “French fishing must not be taken hostage by the British for political ends.”

Fishing leaders are openly threatening to bring disruption to Britain’s supply chains in the run up to Christmas with a possible blockade of the Port of Calais and the Channel Tunnel.

British people “will not have so many nice things to eat” at Christmas if the issues aren’t resolved, said Olivier Lepretre – chairman of the Hauts-de-France Regional Fisheries Committee.

It would come at a time when a shortage of HGV drivers in the UK is already causing problems for some businesses and customers.

Mr Lepretre warned, according to the Daily Mail: “The British have got two weeks to react and then we will go on the attack.”

He said blockades would target “especially those handling the import and export of goods”.

The French government has criticised the UK but requested protests are delayed while diplomatic efforts to resolve the impasse are made, Mr Lepretre added.

Under an agreement with the EU, French fishermen must show a history of fishing in the area to receive a licence for Jersey’s waters. But France has claimed that additional conditions were added without notice.

Earlier this week, French prime minister Jean Castex told parliament that bilateral deals with the UK are at risk.

He said the UK “does not respect its own signature” and accused it of introducing “new conditions and delays” to undermine previously agreed post-Brexit fishing arrangements.

Mr Castex told broadcaster Europe 1 that France could retaliate by stopping the provision of energy to the UK crown dependencies in the Channel. France supplies the vast majority of Jersey’s electricity.

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the UK’s approach “has been reasonable and fully in line” with its commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

In August, a dispute was sparked after a French trawler allegedly broke the law by catching off the coast of Jersey at least a tonne of the world’s most expensive fish, bluefin tuna worth £10,000.

Government officials on the Channel Island have confirmed it has launched an investigation into reports of the illegal catch, which is reported to have sold at auction in the Normandy port of Granville.

Bluefin tuna is protected under Jersey’s wildlife laws but although controlled fishing for the species is not banned in France.

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