Olivier Leprêtre, the head of a group of French fishermen, is facing expulsion from British seas because he alleges the UK government has denied him a fishing licence.
On Saturday, it was discovered that the fisherman orchestrating blockades of UK-bound lorries at Channel ports is one of the few remaining without a licence to fish in British seas.
Mr Leprêtre, who organised Friday’s stoppages at numerous ports and the Channel Tunnel as head of the regional fishermen’s committee, claims he has been refused a licence because applications must be based on the fishing vessels themselves rather than the first-hand experience of fishermen.
He is one of a handful of individuals who have been turned down due to a demand for previous fishing verification based on a vessel’s GPS location.
Following Brexit, Britain has asked that all fishermen seeking a licence show they fished British waters on a regular basis prior to the separation agreement. French fishermen claim to have fished in the seas of Jersey and Guernsey between 2012 and 2016, but that they have since sold their vessels.
“The English assigned my license to my old boat,” complained one fisherman, Luc Ramet. “I had sold it bareboat. As their allocation method involves the hull number, and you change it when you have a new boat, I couldn’t have the licence.”
Mr Leprêtre is said to be in a similar situation.
This week, the Manureva, his ship, was sighted near Calais with a bedsheet imploring the British to “stop your fishy business.”
In a post-Brexit battle over licences, militant French fishing barons have pledged to ruin Britain’s economy. Skippers have planned a statewide demonstration.
On Friday, Mr Leprêtre boasted on French television that action against UK-bound cargo was “unanimous” across multiple northern ports, and that fishermen from various areas had never coordinated effort in this manner before.
He stated he got a phone call from French President Emmanuel Macron expressing his support.
Mr Macron has sought the support of several EU countries in his battle against the UK’s so-called fishing conflicts.
The French government wants the European Commission to threaten economic punishment against the United Kingdom, even though other EU countries are unlikely to join a trade war.
Clement Beaune, France’s Europe minister, claimed yesterday that the European Commission had not taken the matter “seriously enough” and that Paris wanted it fixed before Christmas.
France has warned the United Kingdom on many occasions over the issue. Blocking British access to French ports, putting more inspections on British cars entering France, reducing electrical supplies to Jersey and the mainland, and imposing penalties and taxes on British products have all been implemented.
According to the European Commission, almost all permanent licences sought by the European Union, mainly on behalf of French fishermen, have been granted.
“Since the beginning of 2021, 90 percent of all permanent licences requested by the EU have been delivered,” an EU official stated.
“Yet, we still have an important number of outstanding licence requests, and the process is too slow,” they said. “We need a clear perspective to end the current climate of uncertainty for our fishers., as well as for the EU and the UK.”
“The Environment Secretary had a constructive discussion with Commissioner Sinkevičius on Wednesday,” a UK government official said, “technical discussions with the European Commission and French authorities will continue next week.”
“Our approach to fisheries licences is evidence-based and completely in line with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement,” they said.
“In total, we have licensed nearly 1,700 EU vessels to fish in our waters,” the official said. “Where vessels have provided the required evidence, we have issued licenses and will continue to do so.”
Around 150 licence applications are estimated to be pending. Approximately 960 fishing licences have been given to French fishermen by the United Kingdom.