France has begun to take legal action against the United Kingdom over disputed fishing licenses.
France announced its legal action against the United Kingdom after a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and representatives of French fishermen. Directly after the meeting, it was announced that Paris would request a meeting of the EU-UK partnership council, which is a political organization meant to handle post-Brexit issues.
“We will also ask, in the coming days, the European Commission to initiate judicial proceedings for the licenses we are entitled to get,” European Affairs Minister of France Clement Beaune announced. Prior to Brexit, French fishermen had free access to fish in British waters. Now, they are required to possess a special license from the British government or the self-governing British Crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey to access certain areas.
Even though France has been granted 93 percent of the licenses requested, Beaune says France still demands the remaining seven percent. France accuses the UK of violating the previous Brexit trade deal, while the UK claims many French vessels lack the requisite paperwork to be granted licenses.
“If the British don’t respect the agreement, they won’t be able to access freely [sic] to our market in the future,” Beaune said. The 60 remaining fishing licenses will allow French boats to fish in UK waters.
“The problem with the British government is that it does not do what it says,” said French president Emmanuel Macron, accusing London of failing to keep its word on Brexit and the fishing licenses.
Olivier Le Nezet, the head of the fishermen’s committee in the French region of Brittany, said, “[Macron] made it very clear: the fight continues, it will end only when we get the licenses.”
The dispute has increased the likelihood of a full on trade war, with fishermen in France stepping up protests by blocking British boats from French ports all along the coast. While the UK has threatened to block ferries and transit across the channel, France has vowed to continue negotiating over fishing disputes until all of the requested licenses are granted.
The licensing requirements force fishermen to prove that they have had previous fishing trips in British waters. French fishermen claim that these mandates are “too onerous” to get. France hopes to receive information from the UK explaining the required amount of evidence to prove previous fishing experience.
“We have licensed vessels where sufficient evidence has been provided to demonstrate they qualify under the Brexit deal. Where that evidence has not been provided, licenses have not been issued,” said a source in the British government.
This most recent spat over fishing rights represents a microcosm of the larger split between the EU and the UK, which remains unlikely to mend in coming years.
By: Kevin Niu