The United Kingdom threatened retaliation after France seized a British fishing vessel as a long-running row over fishing rights escalated after Brexit.
Paris said, on Wednesday evening, that it will increase customs and health controls on shipping at the borders, and will conduct more stringent checks for trucks coming to and leaving France, and will prevent fishing vessels from landing their catch in some French ports. France also repeated its threat to electricity supplies to the United Kingdom.
France also announced during the night that the gendarmes had escorted a British boat to Le Havre because it did not have a license to fish in French waters. The catch can be confiscated and the captain can be fined after a court hearing.
A second fishing boat near the coast of Normandy did not immediately allow French officials to board to check its papers and issued a warning.
The UK government said the French proposals, which threaten to disrupt trade via the important Dover-Calais route, have been “disappointing” and may have broken a post-Brexit agreement with the European Union.
“The threatened measures do not appear to be compatible with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and broader international law and, if implemented, will be met with an appropriate and measured response. We will convey our concerns to the European Union Commission and the French government.”
Lord David Frost“We will consider what additional measures are necessary,” the Brexit minister added. France supplies the UK and Jersey with electricity through submarine cables.
France’s Europe Minister Clement Pellon said in a television interview on Thursday that the stricter controls are aimed at forcing the United Kingdom back to the negotiating table to issue more fishing licenses after months of discussions.
“It’s time to speak the language of power because I fear that is all the UK government understands,” he told CNews. “There will be absolutely no tolerance and no concessions.”
Tensions over fishing rights have been rising for months after the United Kingdom rejected requests from some small French boats to continue fishing in British waters under the Brexit agreement. The dispute revolves around the right to fish in the waters six to 12 nautical miles off the shores of Britain, as well as in the seas off the island of Jersey, near France.
In May, the United Kingdom sent naval ships to Jersey after a blockade by frustrated French fishermen who had refused licenses to fish in its waters.
France claims that only half of those eligible have obtained licenses to continue fishing even after it provided data and documentation of previous fishing activity for these boats to support the applications. “We will not let the UK wipe its feet with the Brexit deal,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.
He added that Paris first turned to the European Commission on the issue as called for by the treaty.
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The Commission and European Union member states have not yet supported France’s call to action. Brussels, which is examining evidence from French boats, said on Tuesday that the UK had approved 15 out of 47 applications for French boats to operate in the six to 12 mile zone. Another 15 could be authorized if they presented more evidence, while 17 were withdrawn due to “weak evidence”.
The commission said that only 66 of the 170 vessels that applied to fish off Jersey had obtained licenses, with another 35 vessels under evaluation and 69 rejected.
Annick GirardinThe French navy minister accused the UK government of lying. London said it approved 98 per cent of license applications for EU boats but said the figure was 90.3 per cent. “Obviously the 10 per cent missing are French,” she said on Twitter.