French fishermen have warned they will set up blockades to stop British vessels from ‘supplying the French market’ in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
They said they would respond to having ‘zero access’ to UK waters by blocking ships carrying vital goods from entering major ports such as Calais.
It will not just be a few fishermen who will block negotiations or who will cause trouble at sea, warned Dimitri Rogoff, President of the Normandy regional fisheries committee.
‘If we are deprived of our fishing grounds, we will not watch the British supply the French market,’ he told radio station France Info.
French fishermen have warned they will set up blockades to stop British vessels from ‘supplying the French market’ in the event of a No Deal Brexit. Pictured: Fishermen empty a fishing net aboard the Boulogne-sur-Mer based trawler “Nicolas Jeremy” in the North Sea, off the coast of northern Franc
‘There will therefore be blockages to ferries, since this happens mainly by ferries. And on that, we are quite clear and determined.’
It was revealed on Friday that four Royal Navy gunboats were on standby to stop EU trawlers from January 1 if trade talks broke down.
Responding to the move, Rogoff said: ‘Sending warships would mean that we are negotiating things relating to war.
‘It is inappropriate at the time of negotiations to flex your muscles like that.’
‘It has already been seen, there are things that we have already known a long time ago and that we hoped never to see again in this Europe which is one of sharing resources, of freedom, a Europe without borders.
‘Now the UK has decided to leave, but from there to sending warships, it’s unimaginable.’
Rogoff is worried French fishermen will be robbed of their fish by their European neighbours in they can’t access British waters. Pictured: The French trawler “Thomas Nicolas II” sails past a Dutch trawler in the North Sea, off the coast of northern France
Rogoff is worried French fishermen will be robbed of their fish by their European neighbours in they can’t access British waters.
He argues that large trawlers, mostly Dutch-owned, are taking large quantities of fish from the Channel – in both the French and English waters.
‘Despite what [these big trawlers] claim, they fish the same species as us, including mackeral,’ Rogoff told 76 Actu. ‘Our coastal fleets are robbed of part of their quota by these huge boats.
‘As a result, it is the UK today that provides us with quotas and there is no guarantee that they will so again after Brexit.’
The practices of the Dutch shipowners are ‘for the most part everywhere in the Channel, whether on the French or English side,’ he added.
But he fears ‘a concentration of these giants on the French side because the English will no longer let them go to their homes’.
Speaking on Ridge on Sunday today Mr Raab said: ‘Of course we’re going to enforce our waters around fisheries and whatever else’
The warning comes as the UK government is refusing to bow to ‘outlandish’ demands by France for EU vessels to be allowed the right to large quota of fish from British waters after the UK leaves on January 1.
Fishing rights in UK waters is one of the last remaining sticking points in the free trade talks that are on the brink of collapse.
Alongside the four Royal Navy gunboats on standby, reports also suggested military helicopter surveillance will be made available and that ministers are considering beefing-up Navy powers in legislation to authorise them to board vessels and arrest fishermen found to be contravening post-Brexit rules.
Speaking on Ridge on Sunday Mr Raab said: ‘The bottom line is actually if we do leave on WTO terms we’ll be an independent coastal state. Of course we’re going to enforce our waters around fisheries and whatever else.
‘And of course for the French and others, that will mean – you know, forget those outlandish terms that they were asking of us – their fishing industries would have zero access guaranteed.’
A former navy chief says Boris Johnson is right to prepare Brexit gunboats for any ‘punch-up’ with ‘stormy’ French fishermen as last-minute negotiations with the EU rumble on today
Britain will send in four Royal Navy vessels with cannon and machine guns to patrol the English Channel and Irish Sea to stop illegal fishing if a trade deal is not agreed with the EU
This map shows the extent of the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone – the waters Britain will take back control of after Brexit. At the moment the EEZ of every EU member state is merged into one large zone which can be accessed by fishermen from all over Europe
Spanish foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez said she could not understand why fisheries had proved such a sticking point in the talks – because it was such a small industry in the UK.
However Spanish foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez said she could not understand why fisheries had proved such a sticking point in the talks – because it was such a small industry in the UK.
‘Fishing in the UK is 6,000 vessels employing 12,000 workers – that’s the magnitude of the problem, so I have difficulties understanding why we cannot agree to a landing zone on this,’ she told Ridge On Sunday.
Asked about the decision to deploy four Royal Navy boats to patrol UK waters in the event of no-deal, she added: ‘I think this is all for gallery, I don’t think this is serious – and by the way I don’t think this is needed.
‘I think what would be more responsible is to sit down and agree what kind of relationship does the UK want with the European Union on fishing, again understanding that on this, like on the rest (of the issues), there are things for the UK to win, things for the EU to win – we just have to find this middle point.’
Boris Johnson was last night blasted as an ‘English nationalist’ by a former Conservative party chairman as Tories rowed over the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan.
Former European commissioner and Hong Kong governor Lord Patten said Mr Johnson was on a ‘runaway train of English exceptionalism’ in thinking no-deal would allow the nation to prosper.
He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: ‘While I hope for the best, I do fear for the worst because it is very, very difficult to see what the plan is, how we’re going to do so brilliantly when we’re out of this ‘cage’ of Europe – which we of course helped to build because the main constructor of the single market was Margaret Thatcher.’
Lord Patten, pictured, said the Prime Minister was on a ‘runaway train of English exceptionalism’ in thinking no-deal would allow the nation to prosper
Preparations are being made at ports, with part of the M20 motorway to be shut for four consecutive nights across the weekend as Kent tests plans to tackle any disruption as a result of customs changes
The decision to ready the Navy for increased territorial patrols – likely to be read as a warning in Brussels over fishing rights – comes after Mr Johnson met senior minister Michael Gove, who has responsibility for Brexit planning, and other officials on Friday afternoon to ‘take stock’ of Government plans for a no-deal exit.
The Prime Minister and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen – who are expected to hold talks at lunchtime – have both warned that a no-deal outcome looks more likely than an agreement in the trade negotiations, with the pair having agreed to take a firm decision on the future of the talks on Sunday.
The bid to shore up protection of British waters came at the suggestion of some Government backbenchers, with Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski tweeting on Friday that naval forces should be deployed in the New Year ‘to prevent illegal French fishing in our waters’.
Lord West, a former chief of naval staff, also said he agreed that the Royal Navy should protect UK waters from foreign fishing vessels if asked to do so in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
‘It is absolutely appropriate that the Royal Navy should protect our waters if the position is that we are a sovereign state and our Government has said we don’t want other nations there,’ he told Today.
‘There are complications in that you can push vessels aside, you can cut their fishing tackle but boarding these foreign ships, they’ll need to pass probably a little thing through Parliament to give authority to board and get on them.
‘There is no doubt if you are a fisherman who has fished for years there – they are, as our fishermen are, quite stormy people – and you get a bit of a punch-up and you might need some Marines and things.’
Mr Ellwood was more critical, though, saying: ‘I think these headlines are absolutely irresponsible. We need to be focusing on what is already in the bag – 98% of the deal is there, there are three or four outstanding issues,’ Mr Ellwood said.
‘Important though they are, let’s park those for the future. Let’s get this deal because economically, but most importantly, international reputationally this would be so damaging to Britain – it would be a retrograde step, a failure of statecraft.’
Maritime Security Centre to help deal with any clashes in fishing grounds.
The naval ships could even be ordered to impound rogue French fishing vessels.
The potential deployment evokes memories of the Cod Wars of the 1970s. At times the Royal Navy stopped Icelandic boats interfering with British trawlers.
The move is unlikely to calm tensions ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for a decision on whether trade negotiations should carry on.
Boris Johnson warned on Sunday No Deal was ‘very, very likely’, meaning Britain would have to trade with the EU under what he calls an ‘Australian-style relationship’.
The Prime Minister had tried to speak directly to Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel but the French and German leaders rebuffed his approach.
Fishing rights have been one of the key sticking points in the trade talks, with the two sides bitterly divided over how much access EU fleets should continue to have to British waters.
Earlier this week the EU suggested it should continue to enjoy the same access as it does now for at least another year – even under No Deal. That idea has been rejected by UK ministers.
The Ministry of Defence has spent months drawing up contingency plans for a number of outcomes at the end of the transition period on December 31.
It is feared that a No Deal result could lead to clashes between rival boats – with internal government warnings of EU fisherman continuing to fish in UK waters at the end of this month.
A 34-page ‘official sensitive’ document on reasonable worst-case scenarios states: ‘EU and UK fishers could clash over the lost access to historic fishing grounds, and there could be a significant uplift in illegal fishing activities.’
The Royal Navy has drawn up a range of enforcement measures to protect the UK’s status as an ‘independent coastal state’.
Its four vessels would be deployed ‘when it gets feisty’, government sources said.
It is understood the Navy is preparing to deploy two Batch 1 vessels and two Batch 2 vessels, which are almost 300ft in length and weigh 2,000 tons.
The Batch 1 vessels are equipped with 20mm cannons and 7.62mm machine guns. The Batch 2s have 30mm MK44 Bushmaster cannons.
A Navy source said: ‘It’s highly likely you’ll get a couple of those at sea on New Year’s Day.’
The insider added that requests for assistance would come from other government departments adding: ‘We will lean in to support wherever required.’
A government source said: ‘They’ll be able to support border force and step in when there are boats in our waters that are not compliant and not willing to exit.
‘If there’s a fishing vessel within 12 nautical miles that isn’t willing to leave that is when the Navy will step in’.
As well as providing a physical presence and deterrence, the vessels will be able to inspect vessels if needed.
The Navy has eight offshore patrol vessels and has sent their crews on courses to learn about fisheries protection. Helicopters could be drafted in to search for groups of vessels.
Mr Gove warned in October that the Navy would be patrolling British waters in the days after the transition period. The Cabinet Office minister said they would ‘make sure no one is abusing their rights when it comes to access to our fishing waters’.
Top brass have put 14,000 personnel on standby to respond to No Deal and help with the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and potential severe weather events.
Norway said on Sunday it might close its fishing waters to European and British vessels from January 1. Oslo concluded a bilateral agreement with Britain in October but first wants this to be part of a trilateral deal with the EU.
‘If we do not get a deal by January 1, we will not open Norway’s economic fishing zones to vessels from the EU and Britain,’ said fisheries and seafood minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen.
Ursula von der Leyen, pictured alongside Angela Merkel and Charles Michel, told European leaders at a meeting of the European Council that there is now a ‘higher probability for no deal than deal’