UK-France relations crumble to new low as fishing boat is seized in deeper row after Brexit

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The action marked France’s determination not to back down in the row, a day after listing potential sanctions against Britain if there is no progress in the talks.

They include additional customs checks on British goods from November 2 and what has been widely seen in London as a threat to curtail electricity exports to Britain if talks fail.

“It’s not war, but it’s a fight,” Girardin told RTL radio.

British fishing grounds are among the richest in the North East Atlantic area, where most of the European Union’s catches are channeled.

France’s actions appear to be designed as a wake-up call to pressure Britain to compromise in talks with the EU.

The British government said the French reaction was “disappointing and disproportionate, and not what we would expect from a close ally and partner”.

Environment Minister George Eustice challenged France’s claim that the boat did not have a license and told parliament the measures threatened by France appeared incompatible with a post-free trade agreement. Brexit and broader international law.

“… if they are carried out, (they) will receive an appropriate and calibrated response,” he said.

France claims Britain has refused to grant its fishermen the total number of licenses to operate in British waters that France deems justified, although Britain says it issues licenses to vessels that meet to its criteria.

“So now we have to speak the language of force because that seems to be the only thing this British government understands,” European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune told CNews television station.

Girardin has made it clear that France cannot cut Britain’s electricity supply as a retaliatory measure, but said it could raise tariffs. Britain imported about 6% of its electricity supply from France on Thursday, the data showed.

Jersey, an autonomous British Crown dependency 14 miles off the French coast, said Thursday it was “extremely disappointed” with France’s announcement as Jersey officials met with officials from France, from the UK and the European Commission on Wednesday morning.

“The result of this meeting is that 162 French vessels will be authorized to fish in Jersey territorial waters as of this Friday,” said the Jersey government statement.

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Additional customs checks on goods traveling between Britain and the rest of Europe could disrupt trade flows before Christmas.

The EU’s executive body said it would continue talks with Britain and France in the coming days.

The skipper of the Cornelis Gert Jan is the subject of a preliminary investigation for the dredging of 2,160 kg (4,762 lb) of scallops and could face a fine of 75,000 euros ($ 87,500). Her owners said the vessel had a fishing license and was fishing legally.

“We are a bigger force pawn here. It has to do with the licenses and the beef the French have with the licenses of French ships,” Andrew Brown, director of Macduff Shellfish, told Reuters.

Barrie Deas, head of Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations, said France appeared determined to escalate the issue of permits ahead of a presidential election, with President Emmanuel Macron expected to run for a new term in April.

In a sign Britain could offer more licenses, Bruno Margolle, head of the Boulogne Fishermen’s Collective, said 15 of the 37 license applications from his region previously shown to be rejected had moved to “under review “since the boat was detained.

Senior British, French and EU officials have indicated they don’t want the dispute to escalate, but Macron and Johnson are under pressure from fishing lobbies and will want to show they are defending voters’ interests.

The industry makes only a small contribution to the French and British economies, but constitutes a lifeline for certain coastal communities.

In Le Havre, scallop fishermen said they were fed up with British ships enjoying what they called unfair access to shellfish in French waters.

“We must put an end to this fraud,” said Pascal Coquet, president of the National Committee of Scallop Fishermen. ($ 1 = € 0.8566)

Reuters


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