Brexit fishing war latest: French slam UK for igniting fishing war

Brexit: EU making Jersey fishing deals difficult says Thompson

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Brexit backers hoped the process would produce lucrative fishing quotas for UK-based boats, whose captains could take advantage of renewed “sovereignty” to bring in a bumper catch. But the months following the vote and official departure from the bloc have seen spats ignite between British fishermen and their European counterparts, who still have a claim to waters in and around the English Channel. The latest episode in the long-running saga has seen French fishermen accuse UK officials of igniting a fishing war using small boat applications.

French ministers have accused the UK of using its waters for “political ends” as smaller vessels end up frozen out.

Boats have to file applications before they receive permission to operate on British fishing waters, and very few of these have received the go-ahead.

In the latest batch of 47 applications, nearly 75 percent were rejected, with just 12 licenses provided.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, Annick Girardin, the French sea minister, said Britain had taken French fishing “hostage”.

She added the paltry approval rate undermined efforts to work together after committing to honour the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

Ms Girardin reiterated she aimed to get French fishermen fully licensed as set out in the document.

But the Government has insisted it is operating within the parameters of the Brexit accords.

A Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman told the BBC it had undertaken a “reasonable” approach “fully in line with our commitments” outlined in the agreement.

The latest scuffle follows months of escalation in the shared waters between Britain and France.

In May, French fishermen staged a protest at the port of St Helier, blockading the Jersey inlet with 60 boats.

The protest, directed against post-Brexit fishing rights, ended peacefully but caused 12 hours of drama.

British authorities launched navy patrols for “assistance”, and France threatened Jersey’s power supply.

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Ms Girardin, again commanding French response to the action, said she was “revolted” by the UK Government and said “if we have to”, would cut off the underwater cable providing Jersey’s power.

Rapprochement soothed tensions after 12 hours but ultimately left a bruise on UK-French relations – and further irritated the EU.

Fishing isn’t the only point of tension in the French-UK waters, as Conservatives have also prodded France over migration.

Migrants from war-torn countries have used France to cross the English Channel and settle in the UK, many taking the often dangerous route in fragile dinghies.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, facing pressure to stem the flow, attempted to pin responsibility on France.

In early September, reports suggested her office was exploring plans to use “pushback” tactics on asylum seekers.

The plans would see refugee vessels turned away to France and followed earlier threats from Ms Patel to withhold funds destined for France unless the country intensified its coastal patrols.

French interior minister said it would not accept practices against the “law of the sea” – which compels countries to search for and rescue asylum seekers – and accused the Home Secretary of “financial blackmail”.

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