France threatens UK with legal action after deadline for fishing license expires

First Amendment:

Emmanuel Macron’s government will ask the European Union (EU) to file a lawsuit against the United Kingdom after it did not issue more licenses to French fishermen before a deadline expired at midnight on Friday, according to a French official. After London leaves the European Union, access to British waters requires a permit, but Boris Johnson’s administration has ignored several calls from the bloc.

The UK and France are fueling one of their biggest post-Brexit disputes: fishing licenses. The deadline set by the European Commission for the British government to grant licenses to dozens of French fishing boats expired on Friday, December 10, without a breakthrough, and Paris is threatening legal action by the European Union bloc.

France maintains that 104 of its ships still lack the permits to operate in British waters and the English Channel, which were supposed to be granted in compliance with agreements signed a year ago in the context of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

European Affairs Minister Clement Boone also accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of trying to isolate France in this dispute to no avail.

“If the UK granted a few dozen additional licenses today as a sign of good faith, we would take that into account,” Boone said as the ultimatum was hours away.

However, London ignored the deadline and the foreign minister announced that if the stalemate on the issue continued, his country would ask the European Commission to initiate the process of retaliation, she warned.

“If they stand firm, we will ask the European Commission to file a legal complaint,” Boone said.

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“This is a technical process based on evidence, not deadlines.”

The British government had already denied intent to discriminate against French ships and justified that many ships were unable to provide the necessary documentation to qualify for a licence.

A spokesman for Boris Johnson’s government stressed that “this is a technical process based on evidence, not deadlines.”

On December 2, the island of Guernsey, dependent on the British crown, approved new permanent fishing licenses for 43 French ships, but this amount was not enough.

“Our position remains that vessels must provide sufficient evidence of historical fishing activity to obtain a licence,” the British government spokesman added.

FILE – A French fishing boat blocks the port of Saint Helier in Jersey on Thursday, May 6, 2021. © Gary Grimshaw / AP

After Brexit, access to British waters requires a permit and ships must prove that they actually fished there at least between 2012 and 2016.

However, this is a difficult requirement for younger or older vessels to meet, since they generally do not have GPS and therefore cannot prove a fishing history in the area.

Fishing rights have been plagued by talks about divorce between London and Brussels for years, but the two countries are embroiled in various disputes throughout 2021. Among them, the immigration flow of people crossing the English Channel, post-Brexit trade agreements and the AUKUS defense agreement between the UK, US and Australia, Under which a contract worth $1 million was concluded for the sale of submarines from Paris to Canberra.

“The problem with the British government is that it doesn’t do what it says,” French President Emmanuel Macron told a news conference on Thursday, just weeks after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused of focusing on the issue of immigration. .

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These issues, added to discussions over hunting licenses, continue to poison relations between France and the United Kingdom, which are going through one of their most tense periods.


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