The UK has angered France for only promising to grant a dozen licenses to small EU vessels to fish in its territorial waters, igniting fresh tensions between the two countries over post-Brexit fishing rights.

On Tuesday, the British government issued a statement confirming the outcome of EU fishing license applications, revealing that almost 1,700 have been granted to enable vessels to operate in the UK’s exclusive economic zone (12-200 nautical miles).

A much smaller number of permits, 117, however, have been granted to EU boats that fish in its territorial waters – a zone of 6-12 nautical miles. Only 12 licenses had just been approved out of 47 applications from small vessels.

The UK says there was less data available to grant other boats passes, and instances “where further supporting evidence was requested to support their” claims, as per the statement. EU vessels are required to supply a “track record of fishing activity in those waters.”

According to a UK government spokesperson, the approach Downing Street has taken “is reasonable and fully in line with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement” between London and Brussels.

French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin, however, slammed the limited number of passes, calling it “a new British refusal to apply the conditions of the Brexit accord.”
She went on, demanding that “French fishing must not be held hostage by the British for political ends.”

Fishing rights in UK waters have been a point of contention between the EU and Britain during – and after – Brexit negotiations. Earlier this year, French fisherman blockaded the Jersey island port of St Helier to protest the lack of full licences given since the UK left the bloc.

Girardin also threatened to cut off electricity to Jersey, a self-governing British Crown Dependency, as France supplies power to the island through underwater cables. In 2019, 95% came from Paris. Ian Gorst, Jersey’s external relations minister, struck back at the “disproportionate” threat, remarking that French fishermen hadn’t provided the required information for full licences.

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