Boris vows to protect British fisherman from French threats

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Picture by Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to do “whatever is necessary” to protect Britain’s fishermen from French threats over Channel fishing rights.

The Prime Minister said said he was “puzzled” by France’s recent actions but said the UK will retaliate if necessary. He said he did not rule out a trade war if France acted on its threats saying:

“We will do whatever is necessary to ensure UK interests.”

The PM also confirmed Britain will impose rigorous checks on all EU vessels in British waters unless France backs down.

Brexit minister Lord Frost also raised the issue during talks with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic in London yesterday.

He said the “unjustified measures” threatened by France would “disrupt UK fisheries, wider trade and energy supplies, and block further cooperation between the UK and the EU.”

Lord Frost was also quick to point out the EU would be in breach of the post-Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement and Britain will consider legal options. He said the UK would implement “rigorous enforcement processes and checks” on EU fishing unless the row is resolved.

This came after French ambassador Catherine Colonna was summoned to London yesterday and given a 20-minute dress down in the Foreign Office after French maritime police seized a British trawler off of Le Havre, Normandy.

France has also threatened to block UK boats from entering its ports and hit exporters with extra red tape unless its fishermen are given more permits to enter British waters.

The French ambassador was told “two can play that game” and the UK will act if it goes ahead with its plan on Tuesday.

The British Minister for Europe, Wendy Morton expressed concern over the unjustified measures announced by France earlier this week, and said that if these were implemented as planned on 2 November, they would put the European Union in breach of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). The Minister also expressed disappointment over the confrontational language that has been consistently used by the French government, which makes this situation no easier to resolve.

The Minister reiterated that the UK government has granted 98% of licence applications from EU vessels to fish in the UK’s waters and will consider any further evidence on the remainder.

The Government say UK ministers will continue to raise this issue with the EU Commission and french government and the UK will consider taking further action as necessary, including the possibility of launching dispute settlement proceedings under the TCA and of other practical responses, including implementing rigorous enforcement processes and checks on EU fishing activity in UK territorial waters, within the terms of the TCA.

The Prime Minister is likely to raise the issue when he meets French president Emmanuel Macron for talks in Rome, where world leaders are attending the G20 summit this weekend.

As he landed in Italy last night, trying to calm the waters the Prime Minister said:

“France is one of our best, oldest, closest allies.

“The ties that unite us and bind us are far stronger than the turbulence that currently exists in the relationship. That is what I would say to Emmanuel, who is a friend I have known for many years.

“What I would also say is there may be people on either side of the Channel who think they have an interest in somehow promoting disharmony between the UK and France.

“I don’t think Emmanuel shares that perspective at all.”

He added:

“British fishermen should continue fishing in accordance with the agreement we reached under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”

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