SAINT HELIER, Jersey: French fishing boats return home following their protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit. - AFP

SAINT-POL-DE-LEON: The French government accused the Channel island of Jersey yesterday of being unwilling to cooperate on fishing licences, raising tensions again just weeks after Paris threatened to impose sanctions. The island, a British protectorate just off the coast of northern France, is at the centre of a row about the granting of licences to French fisherman following the UK's departure from the European Union. "It is obvious beyond doubt that Jersey is not respecting the Brexit deal. Worse, it is showing an unwillingness to cooperate with us," French Fisheries Minister Annick Girardin said yesterday during a trip to northwest France.

She said that 46 requests for licences from French fisherman had received no reply from the Jersey authorities, while another 52 licences had expired at the end of October "denying these fishermen access to Jersey waters." At the end of October, France threatened to ban British boats from unloading their catches at French ports and to subject all British imports to inspections, raising the prospect of a trade war between the neighbors.

Girardin has previously raised the possibility of restricting electricity exports to Jersey, which depends on the French mainland for its power. Several rounds of talks between the British and French governments this month had soothed tensions and staved off the threat of sanctions, but without finding a durable solution. France views Britain and Jersey as unfairly targeting French boats by either denying them licences or failing to respond to requests, undermining the deal between Britain and the UK which guaranteed EU fishermen continuing access to British waters.

Britain and Jersey deny the accusations and say that the rejected French boats have been unable to prove that they previously fished in UK waters, a condition for obtaining a license. In a sign that the French government anticipated some losses, Girardin also said yesterday that she was preparing a rescue plan of 40-60 million euros ($45-70 million) for French boat owners who had been rejected. Analysts say relations between Britain and France are at their lowest in decades due to tensions over Brexit, migration and a submarine contract with Australia. - AFP