Last minute talks have started to find an agreement between the UK and France in the dispute over fishing licenses, as the head of the ports of Calais and Boulogne spoke of a disaster if Paris follows through on its threats to obstruct the Commerce.
Jean-Marc Puissesseau said he had already received instructions to prevent British fishermen from landing at Boulogne as of Tuesday, while the Calais border authorities would impose stricter controls on trucks loaded with goods.
“It will be a drama, it will be a disaster,” he said. “It will be chaos in your country because the trucks will not cross, it will be chaos in the ports… It has reached a ridiculous point, I would say.
“I hope the British and [the French] If we find an agreement, we find a solution to get out of this point. I know there are some discussions over the weekend so I’m really looking forward to it. “
The focus of the row is the deficit in the number of licenses granted to French ships within the coastal waters of the United Kingdom and Jersey, a dependency of the British crown.
The UK has only approved 16 out of 47 requests for French vessels to operate in UK coastal waters. A further 14 applications are being examined where evidence of activity in those waters was limited, but the French applicants had withdrawn 17 applications due to “poor evidence”.
Of greater concern to French authorities is that the island’s government has rejected 55 vessels that requested to fish in the waters off Jersey due to lack of evidence that they have fished there for 10 days in any of the past three years.
Officials from the European Commission, the United Kingdom, France and Jersey sought to find a way out of the crisis in talks on Saturday, and Paris said it will “gradually” increase customs and health controls on the transport of goods, make more rigorous controls of trucks entering and leaving France, and prohibiting trawlers from landing their catch in French ports if the dispute is not resolved.
The French government is also considering raising the price of nuclear power provided to Jersey through undersea cables.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex has written to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen requesting further EU action in addition to the announced unilateral measures, but sources in Brussels said they hoped to avoid such an escalation.
Boris Johnson warned of retaliation in the UK if the French authorities interrupt the transport of goods through the canal due to the dispute over fishing licenses.
Authorities in Jersey and the United Kingdom have repeatedly said that they are open to any further proof from applicants that they have operated in their waters.
The latest talks are understood to focus on what level of data could be accepted and whether more flexibility can be found to avoid problems at the ports on Tuesday.
In an interview with the Financial Times, French President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet Johnson at the G20 meeting in Rome on Sunday, said the dispute was “a test” of the UK’s “credibility.”
He said: “Make no mistake, it is not just for Europeans but for all your partners. Because when you spend years negotiating a treaty and then a few months later you do the opposite of what is decided in the aspects that are least convenient for you, it is not a great sign of your credibility.
He added: “We have to respect each other and respect the word that has been given.”
Puissesseau told the BBC that finding a deal was vital. He said: “Don’t you think we have enough problems with the virus? We lost 30 million euros of turnover in the port of Calais last year due to the virus and this year we lost 20 million euros again.
“Are 50 million euros lost due to a virus and now we will be forced to introduce controls in our port? I tell you, this economic problem with the fishermen is a drop of water in the ocean ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism