PARIS – France is ready to review bilateral cooperation with Britain if London continues to ignore the agreement reached over fishing rights in its post-Brexit trading relationship with the European Union, the French prime minister said on Tuesday.
Paris is infuriated by London’s refusal to grant what it considers the full number of licenses due to French fishing boats to operate in Britain’s territorial waters, and is threatening retaliatory measures.
“Britain does not respect its own signature,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told parliament on Tuesday. “Month after month, the UK presents new conditions and delays giving permanent licenses…This cannot be tolerated.”
Castex said France was going to bring the matter before a council composed of British and European representatives that oversees the implementation of the Brexit trade agreement and, if there is still no progress, would seek arbitration.
However, Castex warned that France could also review bilateral agreements between Paris and London across a range of affairs, without being more precise.
France’s maritime minister Annick Girardin has said French fishermen should not be taken hostage by the British for political ends and that retaliation could involve energy supplies, educational exchanges, trade flows and rail links.
France and Britain also have bilateral relationships governing border controls and defence and security.
Britain says it has issued fishing licenses to vessels that have been able to demonstrate a track record of operating in its waters in the years running up to its withdrawal from the EU on Jan. 31, 2020.
Britain has also said it is open to further discussion with the boats it had rejected, adding that they had not submitted evidence of their history of operating in the waters which was needed to continue fishing in the 6- to 12-nautical-mile zone.
Patience in Paris has worn thin over what French officials call Britain’s failure to honour its word since Brexit, over fishing and also London’s demand to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol aimed at maintaining the integrity of the EU single market.
French trust was dented further when Britain joined the United States and Australia in an Indo-Pacific security pact that resulted in Canberra cancelling a mega deal for French submarines.
“We only ask that they respect their word,” Castex told the National Assembly.