“We will not roll:” The United Kingdom remains firm in the face of French threats
LONDON (AP) – A troubling post-Brexit fishing dispute between Britain and France showed few signs of abating on Monday, a day before a threat of a French blockade of British boats and trucks.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned France that the UK “will not turn around” in the face of what she called “unreasonable” threats from Paris. French fishing crews have stood their ground, demanding a political solution to a local dispute that has become the last battleground between Britain and the European Union.
The two sides have accused each other of violating the post-Brexit trade deal the UK signed with the European Union, which entered into force this year.
France has threatened to deny British ships access to some of its ports and to tighten controls on boats and trucks carrying British goods if more French vessels are not allowed to fish in British waters. ‘here Tuesday. Paris also suggested that it could restrict energy supplies to the Channel Islands, British Crown dependencies off the French coast and heavily dependent on French electricity.
“The French must withdraw these threats, otherwise we will use the dispute settlement mechanism of the EU deal to take action,” Truss told BBC radio. “We are just not going to turn around in the face of these threats.”
Fishing is a small industry economically, but one which occupies a symbolically important place for Great Britain and France, which have a long and dear maritime tradition. Since the start of the year, both sides have controlled their waters subject to the terms of the post-Brexit trade deal.
Paris says some French fishing boats have been denied fishing licenses in waters they have long sailed, collecting lobster, sea snails, sea bream and other fish from the English Channel. Britain claims to have granted 98% of requests from EU ships, and now the dispute boils down to a few dozen French ships with insufficient papers.
“We have allocated the fishing licenses completely in accordance with what is in the trade agreement with the EU and the French must withdraw these threats,” Truss said.
Dimitri Rogoff, who heads the regional fishing committee on the French coast near Jersey, said French crews had been providing documents for 10 months. He said he did not understand why Britain was making a big deal on “20 or 30 boats”, and that he hoped that threats from the French government might “make our British friends to be a little more conciliatory” .
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Rome on Sunday, and exchanged warm greetings and knowing smiles as they met again on Monday during UN climate talks in Glasgow, but there was no announcement from either government of a breakthrough.
The French president’s office has confirmed that the port blockade will begin at midnight if no compromise is found.
Truss, echoing Johnson, said the UK would respond by triggering dispute settlement measures in the post-Brexit trade deal to seek “compensatory measures” if France follows through on its threats.
Charlton contributed from Paris.
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