The UK has said France’s decision to ban UK seafood exports and crack down on cross-Channel trade next week would violate international law and the post-Brexit trade deal.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said this morning that if France followed through on its threats it would “get an appropriate and calibrated response” as the fishing license feud continues to escalate.
Emmanuel Macron’s government said yesterday it would block British seafood and erect a number of trade barriers on Tuesday if the UK does not quickly grant more licenses to French fishermen.
Macron’s government also threatened to cut power to the Channel Islands later this year, while French authorities also stopped a Scottish fishing boat today for not having the proper papers.
Paris claims it is owed hundreds of additional licenses to allow French fishing vessels to operate off the coast of the United Kingdom.
However, Eustice said any delay was due to French fishermen not providing the necessary documents to process the new licenses.
“It is very disappointing to see the comments which came from France yesterday,” he said.
“We think these are disappointing and disproportionate and do not correspond to what you would expect from a close ally and partner.
“The threatened measures do not appear to be compatible with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement or with broader international law. If successful, they will receive an appropriate and calibrated response. “
It is not known whether France is capable of carrying out its threats without the authorization of the EU.
France claims the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement gave its fishermen the right to 175 licenses to work six to 12 nautical miles off the coast of mainland Britain, but the UK has not issued any that 103 this year.
The French government also claims to be entitled to 216 licenses to fish off Jersey, but only received 105.
Under the post-Brexit trade deal, EU fishing vessels must prove they have a “history” of operations in UK waters to obtain a license renewal.
Eustice said French fishermen have had every chance to provide data proving that they have historically fished in British waters.
Macron spokesman Gabriel Attal said yesterday that France would introduce “systematic customs and sanitary inspections on imported products arriving in Channel ports, a ban on also landing seafood and controls on trucks “as well as the ban on seafood next Tuesday.
“Things are clear and we have said we will not let the British wipe their feet on the Brexit deal,” Attal said.
“Concretely, the government has established a list of licenses to which we are entitled. We have worked with the British and we have given them all the data, all the documents, all the information that they are asking for in support of these claims.
“What we are seeing today is that 50% of the licenses to which we are entitled are missing. This is a situation that is not acceptable and I am clearly saying that our patience is running out. “