France threatens more customs checks over post-Brexit fishing licence row with UK

France has threatened to impose increased customs checks on goods coming from the United Kingdom from November 2 over an ongoing fishing row.

The French government says that around half of the fishing licences requested have not been received.

The post-Brexit agreement with the European Union said fishermen could continue to fish in British waters if they obtained a licence and proved that they previously were fishing there.

“Our wish is quite simply that the agreement that was reached is respected… When we sign an agreement, and that was the case in the context of Brexit, the agreement must be respected. Our patience is reaching its limits,” France’s government spokesman Gabriel Attal said at a press conference.

Attal said from November 2, France could progressively introduce “systematic customs and sanitary controls” on goods coming across the Channel, including a ban on unloading seafood at ports and checks on trucks, which could slow down trade.

He added that other measures related to electricity supplies to the islands of Jersey and Guernsey could be issued in the weeks after.

The measures should be officially announced this week, Attal added, and would come into effect unless the UK issued more fishing licenses to French fishermen.

The French government met with local regions and municipalities about what measures they could take locally as well in order to address the issue.

“We want the agreement to be respected [so] that our fishermen can work in accordance with what had been decided in the agreement with the British,” Attal said.

Eleven EU countries signed a declaration earlier this month criticising the UK’s requirements for fishing boats less than 12 metres long to provide positional data.

“We note in particular that the UK requires proof of geolocation for vessels under 12 metres, whereas such proof is not provided for in the TCA [EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement] and fishermen are not required to do so under EU rules,” the EU countries said.

The UK said at the end of September that it had a “reasonable” approach to providing fishing licenses.

“The government has this year issued a large number of licences to EU vessels seeking to fish in our exclusive economic zone (12-200 nautical mile zone) and our territorial sea (6-12 nautical mile zone),” the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

“Our approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA),” they added.

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