Negotiations stumble between France and the United Kingdom. Forty-eight hours before the expiration of dozens of French fishermen’s licenses, London announced Tuesday, September 28, the upcoming granting of only twelve additional authorizations. A number far from that claimed by France.
The post-Brexit deal brokered by the European Union provides that European fishermen will be able to continue to visit certain British waters provided they obtain a license, granted if they can prove that they fished there previously. London, as well as the semi-autonomous Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey, have not granted all the licenses requested by French ships, which has caused a lot of tension for several months.
The British government announced Tuesday that it would grant twelve new licenses out of 47 requested, for access to an area between 6 and 12 nautical miles from the British coast (Paris speaks of 87 requests). In total, including the authorizations previously issued by London, 100 licenses out of 175 have been granted, according to the French Ministry of the Sea.
“It is a new refusal of the British to apply the conditions of the Brexit agreement despite all the work undertaken together”, declared Annick Girardin, the Minister of the Sea, who raises the tone:
“I have only one watchword: obtain definitive licenses for our fishermen as provided for in the agreement. French fishing should not be taken hostage by the British for political ends. “
“It’s going to end badly”
Added to this is the case of the waters of Jersey and Guernsey, for which many provisional licenses will expire on September 30. In a gesture of appeasement the government of Jersey, a stone’s throw from the Normandy coast, announced Friday that it would grant authorizations to European Union boats. It will also renew provisional licenses that expire in 48 hours, until January 31, 2022, for those who are struggling to collect the required supporting documents.
A new delay badly perceived by French fishermen, ready to do battle in the event of too timid advances. Guernsey renews the provisional licenses from month to month. In total, Paris is still awaiting responses to 169 requests for final authorizations in Jersey, and 168 in Guernsey.
Like his colleagues from Normandy or Hauts-de-France, the president of the regional fisheries committee of Brittany, Olivier Le Nezet, is resolute with the punch ” if necessary “, “Since this is the only thing the English understand”. “In this game, it will end badly”, he fears, tired at the idea “To go and lay siege to Jersey every four-five months”.
French fishermen plead for immediate retaliatory measures: prohibiting English boats from disembarking, reducing economic or academic cooperation with the Channel Islands. Paris says ” to study “ the subject, with Brussels as arbiter.
Towards a new deadline
At the beginning of May, dozens of Norman and Breton fishing boats had gathered in the port of Saint-Hélier, in Jersey, to defend their right to continue fishing in these waters, causing London to send two patrol boats for a few time. This feverish blow had resulted in the extension of the deadlines without changing the fundamentals: European fleets will have to give up 25% of their catches in British waters at the end of a transition period running until June 2026.
“We spent months gathering all the supporting documents, especially for small boats that do not have a satellite tracking system, we gave everything”, says Jean-Luc Hall, president of the National Fisheries Committee.
On the side of the French ministry, we also underline the efforts already made, with total requests for Jersey passed from “344 ships in January to 216 today”, of which only 47 have been definitively validated.
A weariness shared by fishermen from Jersey, who want to protect their flotilla of small boats against the giants that spawn in the English Channel, but fear “Very difficult years” if they lose their European outlets for their lobsters and scallops.