Updated 22 hours ago
Britain granted 23 more licenses to French fishermen, a government spokesperson said on Saturday, a day after a deadline set by Paris to resolve a post-Brexit battle over fishing rights.
The European Union had set London a deadline of December 10 to license dozens of French fishing boats under a Brexit deal signed last year, with Paris threatening European legal action if none breakthrough was not happening.
The licenses were granted on Friday evening after British officials met their European Union counterparts and followed what the spokesperson called an “evidence-based approach” to ensuring ships are qualified to work in the waters British.
The spokesperson added that the approach “ensures the stability and the sustainability of our fisheries”, with the UK granting 18 licenses and the Channel Island of Jersey five.
The EU hailed the deal as “an important step in a long process” towards implementing the 2020 Brexit deal and said work continued to clear seven more ships by Monday.
But France has said it will “continue to work” to obtain 80 more licenses which it insists its fishing fleet is entitled to.
France had previously said 104 of its boats still did not have licenses to operate in British and Channel island waters that should have been granted as part of the Brexit deal.
With the 23 authorizations granted on Saturday, France is still seeking 81 authorizations having received a total of 1,027 to date.
Under the deal, EU fishermen can continue to work in UK waters if they can prove they fished there before.
French Fisheries Minister Annick Girardin and European Minister Clément Beaune declared: “This work has accelerated in recent days.
They declared in a joint declaration: “France and the EU continue to work together to ensure the full implementation of the trade and cooperation agreement”,
Paris had threatened to file a complaint with the European Commission over this dispute.
It could have seen the EU impose financial sanctions or even tariffs on British goods if Britain had been found to be in breach of its commitments.
Some 83 vessels have received licenses since the EU tried to step up negotiations over the pending applications in late November, according to Brussels.
French fishermen last month disrupted cross-Channel ferry and freight traffic to protest the post-Brexit deals and the resulting loss of trade.
Half a dozen fishing boats have blocked access to ferries from the northern port of Calais and the port of Ouistreham in Normandy to the west.
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In May, protesting French trawlers gathered outside Jersey’s main port and even caused a brief standoff with Royal Navy ships.
The UK is heavily dependent on French ports, especially for fresh food imports, and any prolonged blockade could have a significant impact.
The EU and Britain are also stuck in a separate trade dispute over controls on products entering the UK province of Northern Ireland after the UK government unilaterally postponed the introduction of the controls.
The dispute has exacerbated the deterioration of bilateral relations between Britain and France, which have clashed this year over migrant crossings in the Channel, post-Brexit trade deals and sales of submarines to the Australia.
The British announcement comes a day before EU fisheries ministers meet in Brussels on Sunday to decide on annual fishing quotas in European waters.
The EU is in talks separately with the UK to set annual fishing quotas in their shared waters by the end of December.