France accused Britain of playing politics with post-Brexit fishing rights on Wednesday after London granted licenses to fish in its territorial waters to only 12 small French boats out of 47 applications.
Britain said it was open to further discussion with the boats it had rejected, adding that they had not submitted evidence of their history of operating in the waters which was needed to continue fishing in the 6-12 nautical mile (nm) zone.
“Our approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA),” a UK government spokesperson said, referring to the free trade agreement between Britain and the European Union.
“As regards the 6-12nm zone, as set out in the TCA, EU vessels must provide evidence of a track record of fishing activity in those waters.”
France’s maritime minister Annick Girardin said Britain was not complying with the Brexit agreement.
“It’s a new refusal by the British to implement the conditions of the Brexit agreement despite all the work we have done together,” she said in a statement quoted by the Guardian newspaper.
“French fishing should not be taken hostage by the British for political ends.”
Britain said it had granted licences to almost 1,700 vessels to fish in the 12-200 nautical mile zone, and a further 105 licences were issued for vessels to fish in the 6-12 nautical mile zone where evidence supported a track record.
Britain and France both deployed maritime patrol vessels to the waters off Jersey earlier this year after a flotilla of French trawlers sailed in protest to the Channel island, arguing they were being unfairly excluded from the rich fishing grounds.
Fishing and the control of UK waters was a hot topic during Britain’s 2016 referendum to leave the EU. But British fishermen have since accused the government of selling them out by allowing international boats to continue fishing in UK waters.