French threaten retaliation over refusal of post-Brexit fishing licences

Britain said on Tuesday it would grant 12 out of 47 applications for new licences to small boats from the European Union to fish in its waters, provoking an angry response from France.

French threaten retaliation over refusal of post-Brexit fishing licences
Angry French fishermen are calling for reprisals. Photo: Sameer Al Doumy/AFP

French fisherman have become increasingly angry over how Britain has controlled access for EU boats into its waters after it exited the bloc.

London says it has pursued a “reasonable approach”, issuing nearly 1,700 licences to EU boats to fish in Britain’s exclusive economic zone, which is defined as being 12-200 nautical miles from the coast.

A total of 117 have been issued for the 6-12 mile zone.

“As regards the 6-12 mile zone…, EU vessels must provide evidence of a track record of fishing activity in those waters,” the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We have been considering applications for vessels of under 12 metres in length to fish in this zone and, on the basis of the evidence available, we are able to grant licences for 12 of the 47 applications made.”

But French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin called it “a new British refusal to apply the conditions of the Brexit accord”.

Her only remaining priority was to get the licences for French fishermen, “as provided for by the agreement”, she added.

“French fishing must not be held hostage by the British for political ends.”

France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune added: “We understand and share the exasperation of our fishermen.

“We cannot cooperate in confidence with the UK until the agreement is respected.

“We will not hesitate to take retaliatory action, collectively.”

Britain said the other applications had been rejected because of insufficient evidence the boats had fished in the area between 2012 and 2016, as stipulated in the post-Brexit agreement reached last year between London and Brussels.

London insisted its “approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA)”.

The list of successful vessels is due to be published on Wednesday.

France said 87 applications have been made, with the discrepancy revolving around licences for vessels that replaced older boats that had previously fished in the area.

Britain and France are also at loggerheads over fishing rights in the British Channel islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

In May, as tensions over access to the self-governing crown dependencies boiled over, French trawlers briefly encircled Jersey’s main port.

Tuesday’s news comes 48 hours before dozens of French fishermen’s licences were due to expire for fishing there.

Jersey has offered to extend some of those licences on a provisional basis until the end of January 2022, while those concerned sort out the paperwork.

Guernsey meanwhile has simply renewed licences on a month-to-month basis.

Paris said it was waiting for definitive answers on 169 licence requests from the Jersey authorities, and 168 requests from Guernsey.

But there is increasing anger among French fishermen’s groups, with some calling for retaliatory measures against British boats.

Member comments

  1. Funny how none of the other EU countries have a problem with UK licensing. Jersey fishermen blame the French for not keeping logs of their previous catches as that suited them at the time but not now. I think it’s incumbent on the French ministers continuously slagging off Britain in this process to actually demonstrate what UK is doing wrong. Perhaps an example of a completed licence application that has then been rejected. Simple assertion that they’re being wronged the whole time is getting very tiresome and losing any effect it might have had.

    1. It also smacks of the school bully stealing sweets in the playground.
      France’s reaction to the Aussie submarine deal cancellation omits the fact that the cost overruns had about doubled the price.
      And Macron accused the UK of cherry-picking!

      1. The relevant French minister is now threatening retaliation against ‘trade flows, British exchange students resident in France and energy supplies.’ She seems incapable of dealing with an issue on its own merits and seems unaware that the Agreement is between the EU and UK and that France is not a party to it. If the French carry on like this, trying to bludgeon their way to the result they want, there will come a point at which any form of co-operation with France at any level will be avoided since it will only be used against the UK further down the line.

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Pressure mounts on France’s new disabilities minister to resign over rape allegations

French President Emmanuel Macron's newly appointed disabilities minister was facing mounting pressure to resign on Monday after the emergence of rape allegations from over a decade ago.

Pressure mounts on France's new disabilities minister to resign over rape allegations

The accusations against Damien Abad, which he denies, are a major headache for Macron and his new Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne as they seek to keep political momentum after his April presidential poll victory and ahead of June parliamentary elections.

They also come after several politicians running for parliament stepped down in recent weeks over alleged violence against women.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle on Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right wing opposition.

READ ALSO Who’s who in France’s new government 

But the next day, the Mediapart news site reported a politics watchdog group created by members of France’s MeToo movement had informed prosecutors as well as Macron’s LREM party of rape claims against Abad by two women in 2010 and 2011.

The government’s new spokeswoman Olivia Gregoire on Monday denied that Macron and his government were aware of the allegations when Abad had been appointed.

One of the women told Mediapart that in 2010 she blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne and woke up in her underwear in pain with Abad in a hotel room, and believes she may have been drugged.

She has not filed an official complaint, but prosecutors are looking into the case following a report filed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics.

The other woman, named only as Margaux, said that her sexual encounter with Abad in 2011 began as consensual, but accuses him of then forcing anal sex on her.

The report said she informed the police in 2012 but then declined to formally make a complaint, and her subsequent claim in 2017 was later dismissed by prosecutors.

“I’m relieved that it’s come out, because I knocked on quite a few doors so that someone would do something after the case was dismissed, as I thought it was unfair,” Margaux told AFP on Sunday.

“A lot of people knew but some preferred to look away rather than ask more questions,” she added.

Abad said in a statement he contested “in the strongest way” the allegations, arguing his own disability means he is incapable of sexually assaulting anyone.

The newly appointed minister has arthrogryposis, a rare condition that affects the joints, which he says means sexual relations can only occur with the help of a partner.

The allegations overshadowed the new cabinet’s first meeting on Monday, with Gregoire facing a string of questions on the case.

“The government is with those who, following an assault or harassment, have the immense courage to speak out,” Gregoire told reporters.

She added it is up to the judicial system to establish the truth and that, to her knowledge, “no other procedure against Damien Abad is in the works”.

But politicians on the left called for his immediate resignation.

“If I were prime minister, I would tell Damien Abad: ‘I have no particular reason to believe the women are lying… While we wait for a decision from the judicial system, I wish for you not to be part of the government,'” Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure told France Inter radio.

Green politician Sandrine Rousseau also called for Abad to go.

“We need to send a loud enough message to women, that their voices count,” Rousseau told RTL radio.

Borne, herself only appointed last week in the reshuffle, said on Sunday there could be no impunity for harassment and sexual assault.

“If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences,” Borne said.

In 2020, Macron’s decision to appoint Gérald Darmanin as interior minister – although he was accused of rape, sexual harassment and abuse of power – drew heavy criticism, even sparking demonstrations.

Darmanin, who kept his job in the reshuffle, has denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors in January asked for the case to be dropped.