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London summons French ambassador over post-Brexit fishing row

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London wants to speak with France’s ambassador to the UK about an ongoing row over post-Brexit fishing licences.

Paris has threatened to retaliate next week after some French fishermen were denied permits to operate in UK waters.

France says around half of the requested licences have not been received. It accuses London of not respecting the Brexit deal.

The post-Brexit agreement with the European Union said fishermen could continue to fish in British waters if they obtained a licence and proved that they previously were fishing there.

Earlier this week, France’s government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that from November 2 there would be increased customs checks on goods coming across the Channel, including a ban on unloading seafood at ports and checks on trucks, which could slow down trade.

The UK government said the threats were “disappointing” and “disproportionate”.

“The threats from France are disappointing and disproportionate, and do not correspond to what one would expect from a close ally and partner,” said a government spokesperson.

On Thursday, Clément Beaune, France’s Europe minister, said: “I accept that we have made threats and maintained a dialogue. Now we have to speak the language of force because, unfortunately, this British government only understands that.”

Later in the day, the head of British diplomacy, Liz Truss, instructed her Secretary of State for Europe, Wendy Morton, to “summon the French ambassador”, announced a spokesman for the British government in a statement.

What’s the France-UK fishing row about?

The UK announced in September that it had approved only 12 out of 47 new licence applications.

Authorities on the island of Jersey also turned down licence applications Wednesday from 75 French boats to operate in its waters.

Jersey, which is only 22 kilometres off the French coast, is a British Crown dependency outside of the UK. As such, it has its own powers with regard to who is allowed to fish in its territorial waters.

France considers the restrictions as contrary to the post-Brexit agreement that the British government signed with the European Union.

Since the UK left the economic orbit of the EU at the start of the year, relations between London and Paris have become increasingly frayed.

The fishing spat comes weeks after Paris was left furious by the decision of Australia to cancel a multibillion-dollar order for French submarines following a new defence pact with the UK and the US.

Months earlier, the French threatened to cut off power supplies to Jersey, which gets 95% of its electricity from France. At the time, dozens of French boats surrounded the island’s main port, St. Helier. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even sent two Royal Navy patrol boats to Jersey.

The worry is that Jersey’s latest decision might lead to something similar occurring again.

A more detailed look at Jersey’s decision showed the island’s government granted 64 licenses of the 170 French boats which applied. Another 31 boats are receiving temporary licenses to give them more time to prove they have a track record of fishing in Jersey waters and meet Jersey’s interpretation of the UK-EU trade deal.

Boats not granted a license were given 30 days to get out of Jersey’s waters.

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