France wants EU legal action over fishing dispute with UK

PARIS (AP) — French authorities said Friday they will seek European Union legal action against Britain over a months-long, unresolved fishing dispute.

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

European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said France is going to ask for a meeting of the EU-U.K. 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 licenses we are entitled to get,” he told reporters after the Elysee meeting.

The U.K. licenses are at the center 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 license 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 licenses it requested, Beaune said. Yet it still wants 73 licenses to be granted. 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 licenses.” Macron “won’t stop negotiating,” Le Nezet added.

French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin said participants at the meeting also discussed economic support for fishermen whose licenses won’t be approved.

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