French fishermen have blocked lorries of UK-landed fish arriving in Boulogne-sur-Mer in protest at the slow granted of fishing licenses in UK waters by the government.
Under Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit deal, EU fishermen could continue to fish in British waters, but only once they had received a license.
But almost four months since the deal was signed, some 80% of French fishermen in the Hauts-de-France are still waiting for a permit.
“We thought it would be a matter of days. Four months on we’ve barely moved forwards,” said Bruno Margolle, who heads the main fishermen’s cooperative in Boulogne-sur-Mer – the city of Europe’s largest seafood processing centre.
Some 80 fishermen set off flares on the Boulogne docks, blocked two trucks with a barricade of wood pallets and barrels, and put up a sign that read: “You want to keep your waters??? OK … So, keep your fish!!!”
Many have been struggling to meet British demands for electronic data proving that had fished in UK waters during the five years leading up to the 2016 Brexit referendum, Margolle said.
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson branded the moves “unjustified” and said No 10 had raised the issue with French authorities.
The French government late on Thursday urged the European Commission to take “firm and determined action” to ensure Britain applies the deal.
“We will act in a spirit of European solidarity and cooperation with Britain, but the urgency of the situation compels us all to speed up efforts,” Europe minister Clement Beaune and sea minister Annick Girardin said in a statement.
About two-thirds of UK-landed fish are exported to the continent. In the first weeks of the year, Britain’s exit from the EU’s orbit led to a chaotic breakdown in supply chains, which used to see Scottish scallops and langoustine in French shops barely a day after they were harvested.
Meanwhile, fishermen in northern France say their livelihoods depend on access to British waters, where they chase mackerel, whiting, squid and other species.
Margolle said French fish stocks risked being depleted if French fishermen could not cross into British waters.