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France warns it will slap UK with sanctions unless spat over post-Brexit fishing is resolved

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The French government has warned the UK that it will face sanctions unless London addresses a disagreement over post-Brexit fishing in which French trawlermen claim they haven’t been granted enough licences for British waters.

Speaking on Wednesday, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that only 50% of fishing licences that allow French trawlers to fish in British territorial waters had been granted after Brexit.

The spokesman said that the government would be drawing up a list of sanctions that could be used against the UK unless the issue was dealt with by the British government. The sanctions could come into effect as soon as November 1, according to Attal, if sufficient progress had not been made.

French European Affairs Clement Beaune reiterated Attal’s remarks, stating that France could increase border checks on goods from Britain as part of the sanctions. “We have been very patient,” Beaune claimed.

French fishermen have already threatened to take action in an effort to force Britain and the self-governing dependency of Jersey into granting more licences. Trawlermen said they would block the gateway port of Calais as well the Channel Tunnel rail link unless things change.

London says it has taken a “reasonable approach,” to the issuing of licences, and as of the end of September had provided some 1,700 permits to EU boats to fish in Britain’s exclusive economic zone. However, a lesser number had been granted for the area closer to Britain shores. London says, “EU vessels must provide evidence of a track record of fishing activity in those waters,” before being granted a licence to fish the 6–12-mile zone.

Prior to Brexit, the UK’s waters and fisheries were controlled by the EU. Reducing the number of European fishing vessels in British waters was an important component of the Brexit movement.

Others have argued to keep European boats out in an effort to allow fish stocks to recover after decades of overfishing. Oceana, a non-profit organization, has reported that six of the top 10 most economically important fish stocks for the UK are overfished or their stock biomass is at a critical level.

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