City A.M.: France will next week ban British seafood exports and disrupt the flow of other goods if the UK does not grant a swathe of fishing licences.
French President Emmanuel Macron escalated his feud with Boris Johnson today, with Elysee spokesperson Gabriel Attal saying “we won’t let the British wipe their feet on the Brexit agreement”.
Attal said Macron would hit the UK with other retaliatory measures, including switching off power to the Channel Islands, if the row is not resolved.
The UK government said the threats were “disappointing and disproportionate” and that if carried out they “will be met with an appropriate and calibrated response”.
France claims the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement gave its fishermen the right to 175 licences to work off the coast of mainland Britain, but the UK has only handed out 100 this year.
The French government also says it has the right to 216 licences to fish off the coast of Jersey, but that it has only been given 105.
Attal said France would bring in a ban of British seafood exports next Tuesday if the licences were not granted by then and would also implement “systematic customs and sanitary inspections on imported products arriving in Channel ports, a ban on disembarking seafood products as well and checks on lorries”.
“Things are clear and we have said that we won’t let the British wipe their feet on the Brexit agreement,” Attal said.
“In concrete terms the government has established a list of licences to which we have the right. We have been working with the British and we have given them all the data, all the documents, all the information they request in support of these applications.
“What we see today is that 50 per cent of the licences to which we have the right are missing. This is a situation that is not acceptable and I say clear that our patience has run out.”
A UK government spokesperson said: “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 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.
“The UK stands by its commitments in the TCA and has granted 98 per cent of licence applications from EU vessels to fish in our waters. All our decisions have been fully in line with this commitment.”
The issue of fishing access was a huge area of contention during negotiations over the UK-EU trade deal last year.
The issue sparked up again May when a flotilla of around 50 French fishing boats blocked the Jersey harbour in opposition to the UK not granting new fishing licences.
The stand-off led to UK and French military vessels being deployed to the area.