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France slams British island over fishing license in English Channel as tensions surge over fishing rights

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 trawlers are docked at Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France, on December 28, 2020, after Britain and the European Union brokered a last-minute post-Brexit trade deal. (Photo by Reuters)

The French government has accused the British island of Jersey of denying fishing licenses to dozens of French fishermen, as the row between Paris and London surges over the fishing rights in the English Channel.

During her trip to northwest France on Thursday, French Fisheries Minister Annick Girardin said "it is obvious beyond doubt that Jersey is not respecting the Brexit deal. Worse, it is showing an unwillingness to cooperate with us.”

She regretted that 52 fishing licenses had been expired at the end of October, while another 46 requests for licenses from French fisherman are still pending reply.

A group of British dependency islands, just off the coast of northern France, are at the heart of an escalating row between Paris and London over licenses for French fisherman following the Brexit.

The UK denies the accusations and says that the rejected French boats have been unable to provide the required documents for obtaining a license.

The development comes in the wake of a British trawler seizure by French naval forces that prompted the UK government to summon the Paris ambassador to London, a rare move in the history of the relations between the sides.

As a measure to bring the UK back to its Brexit commitments over fishing rights in the Channel, the French government threatened to ban British boats and trawlers from unloading their catches at French ports and raised the possibility of restricting electricity exports to Jersey.

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss criticized the move, saying “France has made completely unacceptable threats, first of all to our fishermen but also to the Channel Islands in terms of their energy supply, and we need them to withdraw those threats.”

“If they don't withdraw those threats, we are prepared to use the dispute resolution mechanism in the trade deal we signed the EU to take action against the French,” she added.

The threats have raised concerns about a larger trade dispute between two of Europe's largest economies.

Several rounds of talks between the two sides have been held this month, but a durable solution for the raw is still not worked out.

Analysts say relations between Britain and France are at their lowest point during the past decades due to tensions over a couple of issues such as Brexit, migration and a submarine contract with Australia.

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