PARIS – France announced Wednesday that it will bar British fishing boats from some French ports starting next week if no deal is reached with the U.K. in a dispute over fishing licenses — and suggested it may restrict energy supplies to the Channel Islands as well.
Since the U.K. left the economic orbit of the European Union at the start of the year, relations between London and Paris have become increasingly frayed.
France vehemently protested the decision last month by the U.K. and the Channel Island of Jersey to refuse dozens of French fishing boats a license to operate in their territorial waters. France considers the restrictions as contrary to the post-Brexit agreement that the British government signed when it left the EU. Dozens of other French fishing boats did get such a license.
Jersey, which is only 14 miles (22 kilometers) off the French coast, is a British Crown dependency outside of the U.K. As such, it has its own powers with regards to who is allowed to fish in its territorial waters. It has granted licenses based on its interpretation of the U.K.-EU trade deal, and has accused France of acting disproportionately.
After weeks of negotiations, British authorities have issued more fishing licenses but that still only accounts for 50% of what France believes it “is entitled to,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Wednesday.
The French ministers for Europe and for maritime affairs said in a joint statement Wednesday that if no agreement is reached by Nov. 2, France will bar British fishing boats from designated ports and tighten customs, security and other controls on any British boats and trucks traveling between France and Britain.
And then in the coming weeks, France said that it “doesn’t exclude” measures targeting energy supplies to Britain, the statement said. Attal specified that meant the Channel Islands, which are closer to French shores than British ones and rely heavily on electricity supplied by the French grid.
“We have worked with the British, we gave them all the requested data, documents, information to back these (license) requests,” Attal said. “Our patience has reached its limits today.”
The French government also asked the EU for Europe-wide efforts to force Britain to honor its alleged commitments under the Brexit deal.