UK grants 23 extra licenses to French fishermen amid post-Brexit spat

The United Kingdom is giving 23 extra licenses to French fishing boats, a day after missing a deadline set by Paris which could have triggered EU legal action.

“Today’s decision is an important step in a long process seeking full implementation of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement,” the European Commission said in a statement, referring the post-Brexit deal between the EU and U.K. which has been strained by a dispute over fishing rights.

However, the Commission added: “A number of vessels seeking access to waters have not yet received a licence.”

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the U.K. agreed to grant access to boats that could prove they’d historically fished in Britain’s waters, but small French vessels have struggled to get their licenses because London insisted they provide GPS data.

France’s maritime minister, Annick Girardin told French lawmakers Thursday that Paris was prepared to request EU litigation and retaliation if the U.K. didn’t approve remaining fishing licenses.

On Saturday, the U.K. issued 18 licenses to fish in U.K. waters and five more for fishing in the waters around the Channel island of Jersey. “Further technical consultations will continue with the aim to have 7 additional replacement vessels licenced by the end of Monday,” the Commission added.

“The European Commission will continue to work, together with France, in order to ensure full implementation of the TCA and will examine the legal circumstances around every requested license which has not been granted,” the Commission’s statement says.

On Thursday, France said the U.K. had issued 1,004 licenses to French fishing boats, with 94 still pending. The delays have led to protests by French fishermen which have disrupted cross-channel trade.

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