France wants EU legal action over fishing dispute with UK

Fishing dispute;
Emmanuel Macron, centre, at the meeting

French authorities have said they will seek European Union legal action against the UK over a months-long fishing dispute.

The decision was announced after a meeting between President Emmanuel Macron and a delegation of fishermen at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris.

European affairs minister Clement Beaune said France will ask for a meeting of the EU-UK partnership council, a political body meant to handle post-Brexit issues.

“We will also ask, in the coming days, the European Commission to initiate judicial proceedings for licences we are entitled to get,” he told reporters after the meeting.

The UK licences are at the centre of the dispute following Britain’s split with the EU last year.

Before Brexit, French fishermen could fish deep inside British waters. Now they need a special licence from the British government or the self-governing British Crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey to fish in certain areas.

France has obtained 93% of the licences it requested, Mr Beaune said, but it still wants 73 more.

The fishing industry is economically tiny but symbolically important for both countries.

Olivier Le Nezet, head of the fishermen’s committee in the Brittany region, said “(Macron) made it very clear; the fight continues, it will end only when we will get the licences.”

The president “won’t stop negotiating”, Mr Le Nezet added.

French minister of the sea Annick Girardin said participants at the meeting also discussed economic support for fishermen whose licences will not be approved.

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