The United Kingdom has granted 23 additional licenses to French fishermen, London and Brussels announced on Saturday, a day after a deadline set by Paris to resolve a dispute over fishing rights after Britain leaves the European Union.
That number remains well below the 104 licenses France has requested in recent days, threatening a case in the absence of a “goodwill gesture” from London on Friday.
“Yesterday evening, after receiving additional supporting evidence from the European Commission, the UK granted 18 licenses to replacement vessels” to replace vessels previously fishing in UK waters, one of the carriers said.
This announcement was confirmed by the European Commission, which is negotiating on behalf of France.
The British spokesman added: “In-depth technical work continues on seven additional license applications for alternative vessels, and is expected to be completed on Monday.”
In addition, the island of Anglo-Norman Jersey, which licenses independently, on Saturday approved 5 new licenses for French fishermen.
According to him, these decisions “conclude the period of intense talks” in the past few days between London and the European Commission.
Under the agreement signed at the end of 2020 between London and Brussels, European fishermen can continue to work in British waters provided they can prove that they have fished there before. But for more than eleven months, the French and British have been arguing over the nature and extent of the supporting documents to be provided.
With 23 approvals announced on Saturday, France has so far secured 1,027 post-Brexit fishing licenses, and is thus laying claim to another 81.
“This decision is an important step in a long process. We will examine (…) the legal basis for each license application that has not yet been approved,” European Fisheries Commissioner Virginius Sinkevicius stressed on Twitter on Saturday.
The Commission had asked London to settle the fishing license dispute before Friday, December 10, Paris making this date an ultimatum. On Thursday evening, the UK firmly rejected the deadline.
If London sticks to its position, we will ask the Commission, at the end of the week, to declare an existing dispute,” the French Minister of State for European Affairs, Clement Bonn, confirmed on Friday morning.
He immediately added, “If the British say + we give a few dozen additional licenses + as a goodwill gesture (…), we will take it into account (…) and maybe continue” the dialogue.
The French Ministry of the Sea did not respond early Saturday afternoon to the London Declaration.