'Warning Shot': French Fishermen Set to Block Eurotunnel, Ports Amid London-Paris Fishing Row
05:58 GMT 26.11.2021 (Updated: 15:24 GMT 28.05.2023)
Britain and France remain at odds over how to resolve the contentious issue of fishing licenses following the UK's exit from the EU. Paris insists that Britain has issued 50% fewer licenses than it was supposed to in line with previously concluded agreements.
French fishermen are expected to block freight traffic into the Eurotunnel and ferry traffic at the ports of Saint-Malo, Ouistreham, and Calais in northern France for several hours on Friday, as part of the London-Paris row over fishing licenses
in the wake of Brexit.
In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Gerard Romiti, chairman of France's national fisheries committee (CNPMEM), stressed that "the fishermen are demanding an immediate resolution to the dispute with the UK over the interpretation of the Brexit agreement".
He described the committee's upcoming action on Friday as "our demonstration of the quality and ability of professional fishermen to mobilise in response to the UK's provocative, contemptuous, and humiliating attitude towards them".
"We don't want handouts, we just want our licenses back. The UK must abide by the post-Brexit deal. Too many fishermen are still in the dark. We have been waiting with bated breath for 11 months. The patience of professionals has limits. We hope this warning shot will be heard", the CNPMEM chairman said.
A Downing Street spokesperson responded by stating that the government was "disappointed" by French fishermen's threats of "protest activity", adding, "we look to the French authorities to ensure that there are no illegal actions and trade is not affected".
The spokesman argued that the government had licensed almost "1,700 EU vessels overall" and that Whitehall's "approach to licensing has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA)".
30 October 2021, 13:44 GMT
According to the spokesperson, the British government continues to work with the European Commission and French authorities "and will consider any further evidence provided to support remaining license applications".
The forthcoming action is expected after French fishermen blocked trucks carrying fish from British waters to processing centres in France in April. In a separate development in May, the entrance to St Helier Harbour was blocked by French fishers over an "unacceptable situation" about landing their catches in France after Brexit.
Macron Wants Continuation of Franco-British Talks Over Fishing Licenses
French President Emmanuel Macron, for his part, emphasised in early November that talks between Paris and London "need to continue", a statement that came after France threatened to slap sanctions on the UK over London's reluctance to issue enough fishing licenses for French fishermen to access British waters under the Brexit trade deal.
A UK government spokesperson said at the time that Downing Street hailed Macron's "acknowledgement that in-depth discussions are needed to resolve the range of difficulties in the UK/EU relationship".
This was preceded by an escalation of the French-British fishing row in late October, when Paris seized the British trawler "Cornelis Gert Jan", claiming that it was not properly licensed to operate in French territorial waters. The UK condemned the seizure as "disappointing", insisting that the vessel had the necessary license. The "Cornelis Gert Jan" finally received permission to leave the northern French port of Le Havre, where it had been kept for about a week.
In late September, the British Ministry of the Environment reported that 1,700 vessels from the EU received licenses to fish in the UK's waters, of which 117 were issued to vessels from the bloc for fishing in a zone of 6-12 nautical miles.
6 October 2021, 10:46 GMT
At the same time, the ministry granted only 12 licenses to French fishermen, having considered 47 applications. British officials called the decision "reasonable" and well within London's obligations under the Brexit agreement with the EU.
Under the terms of the Brexit trade deal
, which came into force on 1 January, EU access to UK waters and UK access to EU waters is now managed through a licensing system for fishing vessels.
The TCO also stipulates that UK fishing boats should end up with a greater share of fish from British waters, with part of the EU's previous share being transferred during an "adjustment period" until 2026. When Britain was a member of the EU, it was part of the bloc's Common Fisheries Policy, which gave all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters.