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France warns UK over fishing dispute: Bilateral cooperation at risk

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Fishing boats moored in western France (photo by AFP)

France has warned the UK over its failure to provide sufficient fishing licenses to French fishers, calling for the EU to adopt a tougher stance against the UK and raising the alarm that bilateral cooperation could be at risk.

Speaking to the Europe 1 broadcaster on Tuesday, France's European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said that his government is in negotiation with the EU to cut the Channel Island of Jersey's power supply due to the UK's failure in its commitments to post-Brexit fishing rights.

The French government's stern warning came in the wake of London's rejection of 75 license applications from French fishermen to operate in British territorial waters last week.

Beaune said France "would not stand for it." He said, "Enough already, we have an agreement negotiated by France, by Michel Barnier, and it should be applied 100 percent. It isn't being. In the next few days – and I talked to my European counterparts on this subject yesterday – we will take measures at the European level or nationally to apply pressure on the United Kingdom."

"We defend our interests. We do it nicely, and diplomatically, but when that doesn't work, we take measures. The Channel Islands, the UK, are dependent on us for their energy supply. They think they can live on their own and badmouth Europe as well. And because it doesn't work, they indulge in one-upmanship, and in an aggressive way," he added.

According to a post-Brexit trade and cooperation agreement, the EU can have continued access to British waters until June 30, 2026, and in case of a dispute with Jersey, the EU can take unilateral measures "proportionate to the alleged failure by the respondent party and the economic and societal impact thereof."

A sequence of statements from Paris indicated that France has run out of patience with UK behavior as the two sides face several bilateral disagreements on a host of issues.

Meanwhile, addressing lawmakers in the National Assembly later on Tuesday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex warned that bilateral cooperation between London and Paris was at risk in the dispute.

He said that the UK was not following its commitments on fishing under the Brexit deal, adding that, "Britain does not respect its own signature. Month after month, the UK presents new conditions and delays giving definitive licenses [...] this cannot be tolerated."

The prime minister said he had urged the European Commission to take a tougher stance on the issue, warning that, "If that does not work, we will go to 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."

UK-French relations have already been strained, with Paris accusing London of going behind its back to sign a new defense deal to provide US-built nuclear-powered submarines to Australia as part of a larger Southeast Asian defense agreement.

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