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France accuses Britain of using post-Brexit rules to ‘take French fisheries hostage’

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France has accused Britain of using its post-Brexit rules to ‘take the French fishery hostage’ and has threatened ‘retaliation’ for refusing licenses to its fishermen.

Emmanuel Macron’s left-wing maritime minister, Annick Girardin, berated London for licensing just 12 of the 47 small EU vessels that applied to cast their nets in UK waters.

“This is another UK refusal to implement the terms of the Brexit deal, despite all the work being done together,” said Ms Girardin, who threatened to cut electricity to Jersey as the spat escalated in May.

“French fisheries should not be taken hostage by the British for political purposes,” she added.

France’s European minister, Clement Beaune, angrily declared: “We will not hesitate to retaliate collectively.”

Britain said the majority of vessels were denied permits because they failed to show that they had fished in the six to 12 mile nautical zone in the years leading up to the UK’s referendum on leaving the EU.

Emmanuel Macron’s left-wing maritime minister, Annick Girardin (pictured at a rally in Cambodia in 2015), protested against London for licensing just 12 of the 47 small EU vessels that applied to operate their nets in UK waters. to throw.

French skippers blocked St Helier harbor on the Channel Island of Jersey in May as disputes over fishing rights escalated

French skippers blocked St Helier harbor on the Channel Island of Jersey in May as disputes over fishing rights escalated

The Jersey government added to France’s woes on Wednesday when it announced it had rejected license applications from 75 French fishing boats.

In a statement, it said that of the 170 boats that applied, 64 were granted permits, and a further 31 were granted temporary permits to give them more time to demonstrate a track record of cruising the waters.

Jersey’s foreign minister Ian Gorst said the island’s government had taken “a pragmatic, reasonable and fact-based approach” to the issue.

The rejection of so many license applications stems from fears that British waters will again be invaded by angry French fishermen, such as the boatmen who blocked Jersey in May.

Last night, Mr Beaune told French TV: ‘We understand and we share the annoyance’ [of our fishermen] because it is simply unacceptable not to respect a signed agreement. We will negotiate until the last minute to extend some of these permits and get more.

“And yes, we’ve said it at every level, including the president.” [Emmanuel Macron] to Prime Minister Johnson that we cannot cooperate in confidence in other matters until they stick to the Brexit deal they have signed.

“I hope we don’t end up in that situation, but of course we have said that retaliation is possible under the Brexit agreement.”

The EU minister added: ‘Commercial measures, for example, on certain British products. Or in the field of energy. We have several areas where the British are more dependent on us. And in this overarching agreement, we can take action if they don’t respect the part on fisheries [against them] together as the European Union and we will not hesitate to do so.’

EU affairs minister Clement Beaune (pictured) told French TV: 'We understand and we share the annoyance' [of our fishermen] because it is simply unacceptable not to respect a signed agreement'

EU affairs minister Clement Beaune (pictured) told French TV: ‘We understand and we share the annoyance’ [of our fishermen] because it is simply unacceptable not to respect a signed agreement’

Olivier Le Nezet, chairman of the Breton fishermen’s committee, called the number of 12 out of 47 a “declaration of war on water and on land”.

He added that French fishermen would ensure that “no British product lands on French soil.”

In May, the dispute over fishing rights in the Channel escalated when outraged French skippers threatened to block British goods access to Calais.

Britain sent two Royal Navy gunships to Jersey after 100 French fishing boats vowed to block the island’s harbour.

The Ministry of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last night insisted that nearly 1,700 larger French boats are already allowed to fish off the coast of Britain.

A spokesman said: ‘The government issued a large number of licenses this year to EU vessels wishing to fish in our exclusive economic zone (12 to 200 nautical miles) and our territorial sea (zone from 6 to 12 nautical miles). ).

“Our approach was reasonable and fully consistent with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

“With respect to the zone of six to twelve nautical miles, as defined in the TCA, EU vessels must demonstrate a track record of fishing activities in those waters.” They added: ‘We have considered applications for vessels less than 12 meters in length to fish in this zone.’

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