French PM labels UK actions in fishing licence dispute 'intolerable', demands tough EU response

French Prime Minister Jean Castex
French Prime Minister Jean Castex © AFP/Stéphane de Sakutin

France on Tuesday put pressure on Britain over fishing rights, calling for the European Union (EU) to get tougher on the UK and warned bilateral cooperation could be at risk.


With tensions between London and Paris in the aftermath of Brexit escalating by the day, Paris also warned it could cut the power supply to the British crown dependencies of the Channel Islands.

Britain has refused to grant all the fishing licences sought by French boats as part of a post-Brexit access deal, leaving Paris furious and fishermen worried for their livelihoods.

France "will not stand for this", European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told Europe 1 radio.

Bilateral cooperation at risk

Later on Tuesday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex told parliament that bilateral cooperation between France and Britain was at risk in the dispute. The two countries work together on issues like illegal migration in the Channel.

Castex said that he had asked the EU Commission to take a tougher stance on London to ensure that Britain complied with its commitments under the terms of its accord on the British exit from the EU.

"If that does not work we will go the (Brexit deal) arbitration panel to get the British to keep their word and, more broadly, we will question all the conditions of the implementation of accords with the EU and also, if necessary, the bilateral cooperation we have with the UK," Castex warned.

He described the situation as "intolerable".

Fishing rights

France announced last week that it would quickly lay out retaliatory measures over fishing rights "towards the British and also our neighbours in Jersey".

Fishing rights for EU boats in UK waters were a key issue to negotiations for a post-Brexit trade accord between London and Brussels after Britain's exit from the bloc on  1st of January, 2021.

Since then, French fishermen have applied for the new access licences but complain of onerous paperwork and a requirement to prove they had fished in British and Jersey waters before Brexit, not always an easy task, especially for smaller boats.

Last week, Britain said it would grant just 12 out of 47 applications for new licences for small EU boats, while Jersey issued 64 full and 31 temporary licences but refused 75 applications.

"Our patience has clear limits," Beaune said. "We've negotiated calmly and nicely for nine months now, that's enough."

Paris is also furious with London over its role in an Indo-Pacific security pact with Australia and the US that sidelined France and led Paris to accuse London of "constant opportunism".

(with AFP)

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app