French fisherman will block ferries and UK-bound goods heading to the Channel Tunnel tomorrow in a further escalation in the row over post-Brexit fishing licenses.
Describing the action as a ‘warning shot’, French national fisheries committee chairman Gerard Romiti said ferry traffic would be blocked at Saint-Malo, Ouistreham and Calais ports as well as freight traffic into the Channel Tunnel.
The blockage will last for several hours, he said.
In response, Britain’s government said Thursday it was ‘disappointed’ by the threat.
The head of the French national fisheries committee has said fishermen will block ferries and UK-bound goods heading to the Channel Tunnel tomorrow in a further escalation in the row over post-Brexit fishing licenses. Pictured: French fisherman protest near Jersey in May, 2021
Pictured: Gerard Romiti, President of the National Committee of Maritime fisheries, pictured in 2018. Gerard Romiti said Thursday ferry traffic would be blocked at Saint-Malo, Ouistreham and Calais ports as well as freight traffic into the Channel Tunnel
‘We don’t want handouts, we just want our licenses back. The UK must abide by the post-Brexit deal. Too many fishermen are still in the dark,’ said Romiti.
‘We have been waiting with bated breath for 11 months. The patience of professionals has limits. We hope this warning shot will be heard,’ he said, refusing to rule out further actions in the future.
Responding to the threat, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters: ‘We are disappointed by threats of protest activity.
‘It will be a matter for the French to ensure that there are no illegal actions and that trade is not affected,’ he said. ‘We continue to monitor the situation closely.’
The EU’s fishing chief, Virginijus Sinkevicius, made the demand during a meeting with Environment Secretary George Eustice on Wednesday.
France had threatened to ban British boats from unloading their catches at French ports and to subject all British imports to inspections.
President Emmanuel Macron then said France would hold off imposing the measures to give dialogue a chance, but French officials have insisted that all options remain on the table.
Meanwhile, Macron was left humiliated after Belgium snubbed his overtures to back Paris in the dispute with Britain.
Mr Macron dispatched ministers to Brussels this week as part of his efforts to build support for his stance and for punishing the UK over the row.
But France‘s Prime Minister Jean Castex and Europe minister Clement Beaune were rebuffed by their Belgian counterparts.
The issue has contributed to growing post-Brexit strains between London and Paris, whose relationship will now also be tested by their response to Wednesday’s migrant disaster in the Channel that cost 27 lives.
Tensions over the fisheries dispute even spiralled into a brief naval standoff in May, when dozens of French trawlers massed in front of Jersey’s Saint Helier harbour.
The European Union has set a December 10 deadline for the UK to resolve the worsening post-Brexit row with France over fishing licences. French trawlers are pictured in the port of Granville, Normandy on November 4
The EU’s fishing chief, Virginijus Sinkevicius, made the demand during a meeting with Environment Secretary George Eustice yesterday
The ongoing row centres around the issuing of fishing licences to EU trawlers to work in British waters.
The terms of the Brexit deal dictate that boats must be able to demonstrate, using GPS data, that they worked in the waters before the UK’s split from Brussels.
France has accused the UK of failing to grant licences to all eligible vessels but Britain has said some boats have been unable to prove their claims with data and as such have had their applications rejected.
Talks on the issue remain ongoing between the UK, France and the European Commission but French fishermen are ‘exasperated’ by the ‘endless months of waiting’ and have threatened to take disruptive action.
UK ministers have demanded assurances from Paris that trade will not be affected after French fishing chiefs signalled they could block Calais and other ports to stop exports to the UK.
France has been putting pressure on the European Commission to be ‘more active’ in helping to resolve the standoff and to secure more licences from the UK.
French Fisheries Minister Annick Girardin had asked the Commission to set a deadline and Mr Sinkevicius, the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner, yesterday obliged.
However, French efforts to bolster support for its position suffered a set back after Belgium snubbed its plea for backing.
Senior sources said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and foreign minister Sophie Wilmes dismissed Paris’s call to trigger sanctions against the UK.
They said the French were left under no illusions that the row over access to waters near Britain and the Channel Islands was a ‘bilateral matter’ for the negotiating table.
French President Emmanuel Macron was left humiliated after Belgium snubbed his overtures to back Paris in the dispute with Britain
‘There is little appetite for a trade war over this,’ the source said. ‘This is not our fight. We still want to resolve the outstanding issues through dialogue with the UK.’
The snub by Belgium is the latest embarrassment for Mr Macron ahead of April’s presidential election.
One senior EU diplomat said: ‘It is quite clear that France is trying to use this dispute for domestic political purposes.’
Another EU source, who works closely on Brexit issues, said most governments want to avoid being dragged into the spat.