Like the impression that London is playing time. And with the nerves of French fishermen. 48 hours before the expiration of dozens of French fishermen’s licenses, the British announced on Tuesday the upcoming granting of 12 additional authorizations, a number far from that claimed by France.
The post-Brexit deal brokered by the European Union provides that European fishermen will be able to continue to visit certain British waters on condition that they obtain a license, granted if they can prove that they fished there previously. This is where the negotiations stumble.
London, as well as the semi-autonomous Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey, have not granted all the licenses requested by French ships, which has caused a lot of tension for several months. The British government announced Tuesday that it would grant 12 new licenses out of 47 requested, for access to an area between 6 and 12 nautical miles from the British coast (Paris speaks of 87 requests). In total, including the authorizations previously issued by London, 100 licenses out of 175 have been granted, according to the French Ministry of the Sea.
French fishermen ready to do battle
“It is a new refusal of the British to apply the conditions of the Brexit agreement despite all the work undertaken together”, declared Annick Girardin, the Minister for the Sea, who raises the tone: “I have more than one slogan: obtain definitive licenses for our fishermen as provided for in the agreement. French fishing must not be taken hostage by the British for political ends ”.
There is also the case of the waters of Jersey and Guernsey, for which many provisional licenses will expire on September 30. In a gesture of appeasement the government of Jersey, a stone’s throw from the Normandy coast, announced on Friday that it would grant authorizations to European Union boats and renew provisional licenses which expire in 48 hours, until the 31st. January 2022, for those who are struggling to collect the required supporting documents.
A new delay badly perceived by French fishermen, ready to do battle in the event of too timid advances. Guernsey renews the provisional licenses from month to month. In total, Paris is still awaiting responses to 169 requests for final authorizations in Jersey, and 168 in Guernsey.
Like his colleagues from Normandy or Hauts-de-France, the president of the Brittany regional fisheries committee Olivier Le Nezet is determined to punch “if necessary”, “since there is only that. the English understand ”. “In this game, it will end badly,” he fears, tired at the idea “of going to the siege of Jersey every four-five months.”
Towards retaliatory measures?
French fishermen plead for immediate retaliatory measures: prohibiting English boats from disembarking, reducing economic or academic cooperation with the Channel Islands. Paris says it is “studying” the subject, with Brussels as arbiter.
At the beginning of May, dozens of Norman and Breton fishing boats had gathered in the port of Saint-Hélier in Jersey to defend their right to continue fishing in these waters, causing London to send two patrol boats for a few hours.
This feverish blow had resulted in the extension of the deadlines without changing the fundamentals: European fleets will have to give up 25% of their catches in British waters at the end of a transition period running until June 2026.
“We spent months collecting all the supporting documents, especially for small boats that do not have a satellite tracking system, we gave everything,” said Jean-Luc Hall, president of the National Fisheries Committee. On the side of the French ministry, we also underline the efforts already made, with total requests for Jersey increased from “344 ships in January to 216 today”, of which only 47 have been definitively validated.
A weariness shared by fishermen from Jersey, who want to protect their flotilla of small boats against the giants which spawn in the Channel, but fear “very difficult years” if they lose their European outlets for their lobsters and scallops.