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EU Official Says UK-France Fishing Dispute Nearly Resolved

FILE - A French fishing boat blocks the entrance to the port of Calais, northern France, Nov. 26, 2021.

A post-Brexit row between France and Britain over fishing rights for French boats is nearing resolution after months of negotiations, the EU's fishing commissioner said in an interview Sunday.

"We managed to achieve most of the licenses that have been requested" by the owners of the French vessels to fish in British waters, with only 70 licenses outstanding, commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius told the Financial Times.

He said the commission, which had backed France in the dispute, "fully intends to continue building a successful and constructive relationship with the U.K.”

Contacted by AFP, the European Commission did not immediately confirm the information nor provide further details.

But a representative at France's ministry of the sea told AFP that "there isn't any particular update on the issue" to give.

As part of the Brexit deal setting out EU-British relations following Britain's departure from the European Union two years ago, the U.K. agreed to allow French vessels to continue to operate in the British and Channel Island waters they had plied for centuries.

While Britain granted nearly 1,700 licenses to EU boats to fish in waters 12-200 nautical miles from the coast, it imposed what France said was an impractical burden of proof for French vessels seeking to operate in the fish-rich zone 6-12 nautical miles offshore.

License applications for 150 vessels were initially rejected for waters around Britain and Jersey.

The commission lent its legal service's weight to the French application service, while French fishermen threatened to blockade French ports and the Channel Tunnel if they did not get more licenses.

In December, France said there were 80 license applications outstanding, and it was going to ask Brussels to open litigation proceedings against Britain if they were not granted.

Since then, the dispute subsided from public view, with Sinkevicius leading quiet negotiations to get London to issue more licenses.

EU-U.K. relations remain relatively tense in several areas, particularly over the issue of Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom that London agreed can stay in the customs zone of the EU -- though it has since sought to water down that status.

But the coordinated Western response to Russia's war in Ukraine has pushed both sides toward greater cooperation, at least on that issue, with the result that much post-Brexit feuding has mostly faded into the background.