The French government has welcomed a move by Guernsey to grant 43 fishing licences to French boats, giving them the right to continue operating off the Channel island.
It comes amid an ongoing diplomatic tussle between Paris and London over the allocation of post-Brexit permits under the EU-UK trade deal.
Guernsey has accepted 43 out of 58 French requests for boats to be able to fish in the zone 6-12 nautical miles off the British dependency’s coast. Forty will be able to continue fishing from February 2022, while licences for another three boats will be issued “in due course”.
For the 15 remaining applications, the authorities will examine “any additional data that may be provided in due course”, a statement said.
France’s seas minister Annick Girardin said the new licences were “excellent news for our fishers”, adding that negotations by France and the EU with Guernsey had made good progress in recent weeks.
However, “the struggle is not over: 111 licences remain to be obtained,” she added on Twitter.
Guernsey’s External Affairs Minister Jonathan Le Tocq described the authorisations as a “significant milestone” in the island’s licensing roadmap. It was “starting to exercise the new powers and control over our territorial waters… which we were not able to exercise in the same way when the UK was a member of the EU,” he said.
Since the start of the year France has obtained around 1,000 licences to fish in UK and Channel island waters after Brexit, but is claiming about 100 more. Paris considers some 30 of these to be “top priority” cases, as a large part of the boats’ catch comes from British waters.
The European Commission recently asked the British government to resolve its differences with France over fishing licences by December 10.
The progress Paris has made with Guernsey, reportedly considered a “trustworthy partner” in negotiations, has not been replicated with London or Jersey. The Channel islands are situated much closer to France’s northern coast than to England’s shoreline and French boats have fished in their waters for centuries.
Under the Brexit trade deal, EU fishing boats can continue to operate in British waters on condition that they provide proof that they have fished there before. However, the French and British disagree over the nature and extent of the evidence needed.