France wants EU to start legal case against UK

The French government has said it will call on the EU to open legal proceedings against the UK over London’s alleged withholding of fishing licenses. Paris says 73 licenses are now outstanding.

Speaking on Friday, Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune told reporters that France had obtained 93% of the post-Brexit fishing licenses it claims the UK should have granted to its trawlers.

According to Maritime Minister Annick Girardin, who spoke alongside Beaune, France was still pushing for a further 73 licenses to fish in British waters. Paris says it will not drop its protests until all of the outstanding licenses are granted.

“The next step is that we will ask the European Commission in the coming days to convene what is called the Partnership Council, which is provided for by the Brexit agreement when there is a problem,” Beaune said after a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron.

The minister contended that within the coming days, the Commission would be asked to “initiate litigation, legal proceedings for the licenses to which we are entitled.” However, Beaune warned that legal proceedings were likely to take a long time.

While the UK has in recent weeks granted more licenses to French fishermen, it contends that many Gallic trawlers have failed to prove they have the rights to fish British-controlled waters.

French ministers have previously made a number of threats, including cutting off electricity supplies to the British crown dependency island of Jersey unless all of the licenses are handed over.

Clamping down on the number of EU member state fishing vessels in British waters was an important component of the Brexit deal negotiations. While the UK is looking to grow its domestic fishing industry as EU vessels slowly lose access under the Brexit agreement in the coming years, many have called for a general overall reduction of trawler activity to allow fishing stocks to recover.

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