UK lets more French boats fish in British waters after Paris demands 'sign of goodwill'

11 December 2021, 21:25 | Updated: 11 December 2021, 21:29

More licences have been granted to French fishermen
More licences have been granted to French fishermen. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The UK has granted more French boats the right to fish in British waters after Paris demanded a "sign of goodwill" to stave off its threat of trade restrictions.

An ongoing post-Brexit spat over allowing more trawlers to fish in the UK's seas has contributed to strained cross-Channel relations and led to a war of words between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron.

Amid another large dispute - the migrant crossing crisis - the French president reportedly calling the PM a "clown".

Now, the British government has granted 18 more licences after vessels presented "new evidence" that they used to trawl in the waters.

Jersey, which has become a focal point for French fishermen's anger, has given permission to another five.

Read more: France vows to 'fight every day' as post-Brexit fishing row continues

Read more: UK welcomes France u-turn on fishing sanctions for British trawlers

The European Union had imposed a deadline of the end of Friday for a resolution but no agreement was reached.

However, with France threatening to push the EU into legal action and trade restrictions against the UK, Paris said it could extend talks if it was shown a "sign of goodwill".

Clement Beaune, the French European affairs minister, said the UK could grant "a few dozen extra licences" to show "dialogue is bearing fruit".

It was not yet clear if the new licences will satisfy that. France believes around 100 licences should be given out.

Britain has said it considers the latest round of negotiations to be closed but talks between George Eustice, the environment secretary, and the EU's Virginijus Sinkevicius meant more licences could be granted to small boats, the Government said.

The fishing row, which grew out of the Brexit deal, saw French vessels block British access to ports in Europe. The UK believes it has given licences to boats which showed the correct documentation.

Fishermen have to show they worked in UK waters for one day in every year between 2012 and 2016, while Guernsey and Jersey ask for proof they fished for more than 10 days in that period.

A UK Government spokeswoman said it had adopted an "evidence-based approach" and "licences have not been issued" where fishing data was not provided.

"Last night, following receipt of new evidence from the (European) Commission, the UK licensed 18 replacement vessels on the basis of (the Brexit deal)," the spokeswoman said.

"Further technical work on seven more licences for direct replacement vessels is scheduled to conclude on Monday.

"Jersey has today announced that it can, following receipt of new data this week, issue permanent licences to an additional five qualifying vessels currently on temporary licences.

"This will take the total permanent licences issued by Jersey to 130.

"This now concludes this phase of intensive talks on licensing."