France and Britain are at loggerheads over fishing rights in the English Channel, a row over the politically sensitive industry sparking a major diplomatic surge.
What caused the dispute?
In short, Brexit.
Britain’s departure from the European Union, which took effect on January 1, tore up agreements in place to manage fish stocks in the waters around the UK and the Channel Islands.
Until Brexit, EU members, including Britain, had treaties and a common fisheries policy that assigned quotas of different stocks to each country’s fishing fleet.
Under the agreements, hundreds of EU vessels, mostly French, have been allowed access to fish-rich British territorial waters, between six and 12 miles from the coast.
So what has changed?
Fishing has been one of the most difficult issues to resolve in the tense Brexit negotiations, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowing to regain “full control” of UK waters.
Ultimately, the two sides agreed last December to a compromise that will see EU vessels phase out 25 percent of their current quotas over a five-and-a-half-year transition period.
After that, there will be annual negotiations on how much fish EU vessels can take in UK waters.
Under the deal, EU fishermen wishing to access UK seas had to apply for new licenses.
The licenses covered more distant waters considered to be the exclusive economic zone of Great Britain (12 to 200 nautical miles from the coast) and its closer territorial waters (6 to 12 nautical miles from the coast).
Fishermen had to prove that they worked there between 2012 and 2016.
And the Channel Islands?
They are a separate, but important part of the image.
Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands, which are self-governing.
They are not part of the UK but recognize Queen Elizabeth as Head of State and depend on Britain for defense and foreign relations.
Brexit also meant the end of the Granville Bay fishing treaty between France and Jersey, which had set rules and quotas for fishing in the waters around the island.
Under the new rules, French fishermen were required to apply for new licenses, which would be granted if they could prove that they had previously worked in Jersey waters.
Is the dispute about the licensing process?
Britain has accepted almost all requests – around 1,700 – from EU ships for access to its exclusive economic zone.
The tension is over licenses for territorial waters.
London has issued 100 licenses to French boats for these waters close to its shore, while 75 applications are still pending, according to French figures from the beginning of October.
For Jersey, 111 permanent licenses and 31 provisional licenses were issued, while 75 boats were refused, according to French figures.
The rejected French fishermen say they are unfairly restricted due to bureaucracy and bureaucracy.
They say small boats do not have the necessary GPS equipment to prove they have worked on it before, while others complain that they have difficulty obtaining licenses for new vessels that replace old models. .
Have there been any protests?
Yes. French fishermen sailed to Jersey’s main port in June to protest, prompting Britain to send two naval patrol boats to the area.
On Wednesday, the French government announced it would tighten customs and health controls on trade with Britain and ban British seafood in French ports.
The measures are expected to come into force next Tuesday.
France also raised the possibility of reducing electricity exports to Jersey, or of blocking negotiations between London and the EU on sensitive subjects such as trade in financial services.
Privately, some French officials point out that Britain is also dependent on Paris to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from illegally crossing the Channel to England.
What will happen now?
French officials say that since they began to publicly pressure Britain and Jersey in recent months, more licenses have been issued.
France is also trying to rally the rest of the European Union to its side.
Ten of the 26 other EU members signed a declaration condemning Britain’s “incomplete and inappropriate” response on fisheries.
Experts see little prospect of improving Franco-British relations.
With the elections scheduled in France next April, President Emmanuel Macron is keen to keep the politically powerful and noisy fishing communities by his side.
TBEN news agency report.