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French fishermen threaten to disrupt British imports in post-Brexit fishing row

Fishing boats moored in western France (Photo by AFP)

French fishermen have threatened to disrupt British imports in an attempt to press London for more licenses as tensions escalate between France and the UK over post-Brexit fishing rights.

The threat was made on Saturday a few hours after Britain agreed to issue another 23 licenses to French fishermen to alleviate tensions between the two neighbors who have been at loggerheads over the fishing row for the past six months.

France is seeking 81 more approvals to reach 104 licenses needed for its boats to operate in British and Channel Island waters under the Brexit agreement signed last year.

The European Union had specified a December 10 deadline for London to grant licenses to French fishing boats under Brexit, with Paris threatening European legal action in case of no breakthrough.

Underlining that France is entitled to around 80 more UK licenses, a group representing fishermen in the key port of Boulogne-sur-Mer and others along the northern coast threatened late on Saturday to launch protests.

"Protests should be expected ... protests that will target British imports," the local CRPMEM fishing industry group for the Hauts-de-France region said in a statement.

The group said its members were "exasperated" by the news of only 23 new licenses and felt "betrayed" by the European Commission, which could launch legal action against Britain over the issue.

The CRPMEM said the protests would be "in line with blockades of ports in Brittany, Normandy and the north of France which took place on November 26.”

On that day, French fishing boats briefly blocked ferries and other boats in the ports of Calais, Saint-Malo and Ouistreham, while vehicles were also sent to disrupt traffic seeking to use the Channel Tunnel rail link.

Several rounds of talks between the two sides have since been held but a durable solution has yet to be worked out.

The UK is highly dependent on French ports, particularly for fresh food imports, and any extended blockade would have the potential to have a significant impact.

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

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