Fishing rights row: France warns UK bilateral co-operation at risk

Fishing rights row: France warns UK bilateral co-operation at risk

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Image caption, Fresh tensions surfaced last week over the number of fishing licences issued to French fishermen

France has intensified pressure on the UK over post-Brexit fishing rights, warning bilateral co-operation could be at risk.

The government in Paris is angry that the UK granted 12 licences out of 47 bids for smaller vessels to fish in its territorial waters.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has accused the UK of not respecting its Brexit deal commitments on fishing.

“Britain does not respect its own signature,” he told French MPs.

“Month after month, the UK presents new conditions and delays giving definitive licences… this cannot be tolerated.”

The prime minister warned that all bilateral agreements with the UK could be at risk if the European Commission did not take a tougher stance on the UK government. No details were given, but the two countries have a raft of agreements covering defence, security and border controls as well as energy and trade.

The UK’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said the government’s approach has been reasonable and fully in line with its commitments.

Speaking at the Conservative party conference, the UK’s Brexit minister rejected French claims that the UK was in breach of the Brexit trade deal.

Lord Frost insisted that 98% of EU applications to fish in British waters had been granted, adding that the UK had been “extremely generous”.

Delicate state of post-Brexit relations

The Commission said it was in constant contact with UK authorities to ensure all licence applications were dealt with as soon as possible. “The UK has published its methodology and we are now discussing the differences with the British and Jersey authorities regarding the rights of the boats involved.”

BBC Brussels correspondent Jessica Parker says there is little sense that the Commission is poised to act, with post-Brexit relations in a delicate state as the EU prepares solutions for fixing the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol.

Fresh tensions surfaced last week between Britain and France over post-Brexit fishing rights.

France was infuriated last week by the relatively small number of licences granted to smaller vessels, when Sea Minister Annick Girardin spoke of French fishing being “taken hostage” for political ends.

The UK said it would consider further evidence to support remaining bids for fishing rights.

France on Tuesday repeated its threat to cut the UK off from energy supplies.

A UK government document in July said that 47% of the country’s electricity imports were from France.

French Europe Minister ClĂ©ment Beaune told Europe 1 radio: “The UK depends on our energy exports, they think they can live alone while also beating up on Europe and, given that it doesn’t work, they engage in aggressive one-upmanship.”

The Channel island of Jersey became a flashpoint for tensions last May, when French fishermen staged a protest outside the port of St Helier and two Royal Navy ships were sent to patrol the area.

At the time Ms Girardin threatened to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply – 95% of which is delivered by three underwater cables from France.

French fishermen complained about being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licences.

Under an agreement with the EU, French boat operators must show a history of fishing in the area to receive a licence for Jersey’s waters. But it has been claimed additional requirements were added without notice.

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