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Fishing: Expect 'retaliation' from licence blocks says French minister
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On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called for an urgent meeting with the French ambassador after “the disappointing and disproportionate threats made against the UK and the Channel Islands”. Earlier this week, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters measures targeting British fish exports would include “systematic customs and sanitary checks on products brought to France and a ban on landing seafood”.
This means British fishing boats would be banned from French ports, severely disrupting trade.
The Union of French Fishmongers, representing 490 companies offered backing for Paris’s efforts to enforce the law, but sounded the alarm about banning UK boats from landing their catch and increasing checks on produce.
It warned against “simplistic and harmful” measures, noting “the national market is partly dependent on British imports” – 83 per cent of fish exports out of the UK were sent to France in 2020.
Previously Secretary of State for France Clement Beaune said France was willing and ready to cut off British energy supply as a punitive measure in the fishing row.
He commented: “We defend our interests. We do it nicely, and diplomatically, but when that doesn’t work, we take measures.
“For example, we can imagine, since we’re talking about energy…the United Kingdom depends on our energy supplies.
“It thinks that it can live all alone, and bash Europe.”
In an attempt to defend his comments, Mr Beaune said his country had to use “the language of force” because “that’s the only language this British Government understands”.
In a politically driven power move, a British boat fishing for scallops was detained and will be fined up to £63,000 by French authorities after failing to provide licence evidence to fish in French waters on Wednesday.
The move sparked a frenzy online after news broadcasters highlighted a lack of French police action against illegal refugee boat crossings to the UK – 160 boats in September alone.
Boris Johnson has responded to French threats in a Government statement, which read: “France’s threats are disappointing and disproportionate, and not what we would expect from a close ally and partner.
“The measures being threatened do not appear to be compatible with the (post-Brexit) Trade and Cooperation Agreement and wider international law, and, if carried through, will be met with an appropriate and calibrated response.
“We will be relaying our concerns to the EU Commission and French government.”
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The Brexit deal agreed the UK will have the right to completely exclude EU boats after 2026, but, from now until then, a transitional period will phase out EU boats – allowing fewer and fewer of to fish in UK waters over time.
According to Downing Street, the UK has granted 98 percent of licence applications from EU vessels, but French maritime minister Annick Girardin has refuted this claim and says the true figure stands at 90 percent.
She said: “This isn’t a war, but it’s a fight.
“French fishermen have rights – a deal was signed and we must implement this deal.”
Ms Girardin implied that the UK is purposefully rejecting French boats in comparison to other nations’ fishing applications.
“All the ones without licences are French, except for one or two Belgians,” she said.
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French officials say more than 200 French fishermen are waiting for licences to ply waters between six and 12 miles from British shores, and in particular around Jersey.
Barrie Deas, head of Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, warned that French boats stood to lose the most in any “tit for tat” dispute.
“It’s a bit strange because the French fleets fish much more in UK waters than we fish in their waters,” he told the BBC.
What do you think of the dispute? Are French threats justified? Let us know in the comment section below.
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