- France says retaliation could target energy, trade and travel
- UK says it has already issued nearly 2,000 fishing licenses
- France already angry with UK over Indo-Pacific security pact
PARIS, Sept. 29 (Reuters) – France will vote on possible retaliatory measures within two weeks after Britain and the Channel island of Jersey denied dozens of French fishing boats a license to operate in their territorial waters.
Paris accused London of playing politics with post-Brexit fishing rights and urged other countries in the European Union to take an equally strong stance against what he called Britain’s contempt for the new business relationship.
The fishing surge comes as Paris rants over Britain’s involvement in a new Indo-Pacific security pact with the United States and Australia that led to Canberra’s decision to abandon a deal to buy French submarines.
French Marine Minister Annick Girardin said French fishermen should not be held hostage by the British for political purposes and said retaliation could involve energy supplies, educational exchanges, trade flows and rail links.
“On all matters, the British are dragging their feet or failing to keep their commitments,” Girardin told reporters after meeting with fishermen in Paris on Wednesday.
Fishing and controlling UK waters was a hot topic in the 2016 UK referendum on leaving the EU. But British fishermen have since accused the government of selling them by allowing European boats to continue fishing on board.
Britain said it has licensed nearly 1,700 vessels to fish in the 12-200 nautical mile zone, and 105 more licenses have been issued for vessels to fish in the 6 to 12 nautical mile zone where the evidence supported a balance sheet.
Britain said it was open to further discussions with the boats it had rejected, adding that they had not submitted evidence of their operating history in the waters, which was necessary for continue to fish in the 6 to 12 nautical mile zone.
Jersey, a British Crown dependent who is closer to France than Britain, said it was issuing 64 full and 31 temporary licenses in addition to the 47 ships already authorized earlier this year, but had rejected requests for 75 fishing vessels.
But the French fishermen said it was not enough.
“We gave everything we could as proof (of past activity in the area). It’s just a matter of bad faith,” said Romain Davodet, who fishes for lobster and whelk off the coast of Jersey but only received a License.
The dispute has been brewing for months. Paris threatened to cut off power to Jersey earlier this year and Britain and France deployed maritime patrol boats in waters off Jersey in May after a flotilla of French trawlers sailed in protest against the the Channel Island.
Patience in Paris has dulled in the face of what French officials are calling Britain’s failure to keep its word since Brexit, particularly London’s demand to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol agreed after months of torturous talks aimed at maintaining the integrity of the EU’s single market.
“We hear (British Prime Minister Boris Johnson) repeat how much he loves France and how wonderful he finds us. But the point is, the behavior of the British is not that of an ally,” said an adviser to President Emmanuel Macron. .
Reporting by Paul Sandle in London and Elizabeth Pineau, Michel Rose and Richard Lough in Paris Editing by William Schomberg, Angus MacSwan and Gareth Jones
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