The UK is ready to retaliate against France in a fishing row that has escalated since the detention of a British trawler and its captain and crew by France.
The captain of the Scottish boat was questioned for five hours and threatened with a €75,000 fine for “unlicensed” fishing, despite the vessel’s owner claiming it was operating legally in French waters.
For the first time in decades, Britain summoned the French ambassador, Catherine Colonna to the Foreign Office to explain what foreign secretary Liz Truss called “the disappointing and disproportionate threats made against the UK and Channel Islands”.
France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune said the “language of force…seems to be the only thing this British government understands”
UK ready to retaliate, says Frost
Brexit minister Lord David Frost warned the European Commission (EC) on Friday (October 29) that the UK is ready to retaliate should France impose sanctions next week as tensions continue to ramp up. Possible measures include restricting access to British waters and increasing checks on French boats landing in UK ports.
Reports suggest France could block British ships accessing its ports or even cut electricity supplies to the Channel Islands – moves that Frost told Maros Šefčovič, the EC vice-president, would breach the Brexit trade deal, according to the Independent.
The Telegraph stated earlier this week that British officials feared France was “preparing to implement a go-slow strategy for customs checks on shipments to and from Britain ahead of Christmas”.
The Guardian reports Frost told Šefčovič Britain will consider “launching dispute settlement proceedings”
The source of French anger is because only 15 out 47 applications for licences by French fishermen to work in British waters have been granted while Jersey has granted less than half of the 216 permits requested
Downing Street said Johnson will discuss the row with French president Emmanuel Macron in a “brush-by” meeting at this weekend’s G20 summit in Rome, ahead of the Cop26 summit which starts in Glasgow on Sunday (October 31)
PM ‘puzzled by what’s going on’
Johnson pledged to do “whatever is necessary” to protect British fishermen while stating his intention to ask Macron to see past the current “turbulence” in Anglo-French relations, saying the countries remained the “best, oldest, closest allies, friends and partners”.
“The ties that unite us and bind us together are far stronger than the turbulence that currently exists in the relationship. That’s what I’m going to say to Emmanuel who’s a friend I’ve known for many years,” said Johnson.
The prime minister said he was “puzzled about what’s going on” and added: ““We fear that there may be a breach in terms of the trade cooperation agreement implicit in what’s happening and some of the things that are being said, and obviously we will stand by to take the appropriate action… We will do whatever is necessary to ensure UK interests.”