France’s government has warned the UK that it will face sanctions unless London addresses a disagreement over post-Brexit fishing in which French trawlermen claim they haven’t been granted enough licences for British waters.

Speaking on Wednesday, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that only 50% of the fishing licences that allow French trawlers to fish in British territorial waters have been granted since Brexit.

The spokesman said the government would be drawing up a list of sanctions that could be used against the UK unless the issue is dealt with by London. The sanctions could come into effect as soon as November 1, according to Attal, if sufficient progress has not been made.

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune reiterated Attal’s remarks, stating that France could increase border checks on goods from Britain as part of the sanctions. “We have been very patient,” he said. 

“Our objective is not to impose these measures, it is to get the licences,” Beaune noted, adding that cutting electricity supply to UK could be one of the actions taken.

French fishermen have already threatened to act in an effort to force Britain and the self-governing dependency of Jersey into granting more licences. Trawlermen said they would block the gateway port of Calais, as well the Channel Tunnel rail link, unless things change.

London says it has taken a “reasonable approach,” to the issuing of licences, and as of the end of September it had provided some 1,700 permits to EU boats to fish in Britain’s exclusive economic zone. However, a lesser number had been granted for the area closer to Britain’s shores. London says “EU vessels must provide evidence of a track record of fishing activity in those waters” before being granted a licence to fish the six-to-12-mile zone.

Prior to Brexit, the UK’s waters and fisheries were controlled by the EU. Reducing the number of European fishing vessels in British waters was an important component of the Brexit agreement.

Others have argued to keep European boats out in an effort to allow fish stocks to recover after decades of overfishing. Oceana, a non-profit organisation, has reported that six of the top 10 most economically important fish stocks for the UK are overfished or their stock biomass is at a critical level.

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