The conflict between France and the UK over fishing licences post-Brexit continues to escalate.
France is set to adopt retaliatory measures beginning 2 November if the British government doesn’t show more flexibility in the granting of licences for French fishermen to fish in UK waters, according to Belga News Agency.
“In a first phase, we will implement systematic customs controls and sanitary checks on products arriving in France from the other side of the Channel,” said government spokesperson Gabriel Attal.
“There will also be a ban on the import of fish products from Britain.”
The fishing conflict between the two countries has been dragging on for some time, with tensions increasingly escalating.
The Brexit agreement from the end of last year allows European fishermen to continue to fish in certain British waters, provided they can prove that they have been working there before.
However, the French and British have been arguing all year about exactly how much, and what kind of, evidence the fishermen have to provide.
The disputed fishing area includes a 6 to 12 mile zone off the British coast and the Channel Islands, for which the British government and local authorities in Jersey have so far issued just over 200 licences. France is still demanding 244.
After this first set of retaliatory measures to take effect from 2 November, France plans to make good on its threat of energy measures that would restrict the supply of electricity to the Channel Islands.
“We only ask that the Brexit agreement be respected,” Attal said after a French cabinet meeting. “Our patience has reached its limits.”
Fishermen using the waters without a British licence to do so face legal action and could potentially have their catch confiscated.
“The French threats are disappointing and disproportionate, and not in line with what we might expect from an ally and close partner,” a British government spokesperson said in a response.
“If these threats become reality, there will be an appropriate and considered response.”
Seventeen Belgian vessels have already received a licence for the 6-12 mile zone, but five are still waiting, some due to unrelated reasons such as one boat that was shipwrecked and another whose owner died.
Flemish Minister of Fisheries Hilde Crevits (CD&V) isn’t pleased with the British response to the licencing issue.
“I am assuming that this will be resolved quickly and that the United Kingdom will keep to the initial agreements,” she said in answer to a parliamentary question on the matter.