The UK is prepared for France to impose additional customs controls and ban British fishing boats in some French ports from midnight as official sources said neither side was backing down in their post-Brexit dispute over the rights. fishing.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said Britain had “solid” contingency plans if France followed through on its threats to introduce more border controls or stop some British ships arriving in French ports.
France has been angered that some of its small boats are being denied permission to fish in the waters around the UK and the Channel Islands. However, the UK insists that its licensing regime is reasonable and will continue to require vessels to provide evidence that they have previously fished in those waters for four days in the last four years.
Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron bumped fists when they reached the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow on Monday, but government sources said the two sides were still far apart in line.
At a post-G20 press conference on Sunday, Macron said Britain must give ground or France would unleash retaliatory trade threats this week. “The ball is in the court of Great Britain. If the British make no move, the November 2 measures will have to be implemented, ”he said.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss escalated tensions on Monday when she warned France it had 48 hours to back down from the threats or the UK would begin the dispute talks set out in the Brexit deal.
A Johnson spokesperson suggested that there would be no retaliatory trade measures in the UK, but that action could be taken through the dispute mechanism. “Depending on whether the French decide to do or what, we will enact them when necessary,” he said.
A meeting to find a compromise, organized by the European Commission with officials from the UK, Jersey and France, was marked by a lack of movement on both sides on Monday, with sources describing the mood as bitter.
The talks continued into the evening, but EU sources said they expected the French government to “gradually” carry out its threats on Tuesday to slow the movements of British trucks through its ports by imposing more checks and balances.
The Jersey government was preparing to provide financial support to its fishermen in the expectation that its vessels would not be able to land catch in French ports. The Jersey Fishermen’s Association (JFA) also called on the island authorities to respond in the same way to the anticipated crisis by closing the whelk and scallop fisheries to French vessels and banning dredging and trawling “with effect immediately for a period of six weeks. “
The Jersey government issued an additional 49 temporary licenses through January to French ships on Monday, giving time for new arrangements to be made.
French officials have said they will ban UK fishing boats from some ports and tighten customs controls on trucks entering the country unless more licenses are issued for their small boats to fish in British waters.
The diplomatic dispute over fisheries, a very small sector of the economy, threatened to overshadow the G20 talks, which took place in Rome over the weekend, and also the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.
Almost 1,700 EU vessels have been licensed to fish in UK waters, which is equivalent to 98% of EU fishing license applications, the UK government says, but this figure is disputed in Paris.
Truss suggested Monday that Macron may be making “unreasonable threats” because a difficult election looms.
When asked if France and the UK had reached an agreement, he told Sky News: “The deal has not been done. The French have made completely unreasonable threats, including to the Channel Islands and our fishing industry, and they must withdraw those threats. “
Truss said that if the French do not withdraw the threats, the UK government will use “the mechanisms of our trade agreement with the EU to take action”, which “could lead to direct action on trade.”
She said: “The French have behaved unfairly. It is not within the terms of the trade agreement. And if someone behaves unfairly in a trade agreement, they have the right to take action against them and seek some compensatory measures, and that is what we will do if the French do not back down.
“[The French must] stop threatening UK fishing vessels, stop threatening Channel ports and accept that we are fully entitled to allocate fishing licenses in accordance with the trade agreement, as we have done. “
Truss said he would “absolutely” take legal action in the next few days if France did not back down, adding: “This issue must be resolved in the next 48 hours.”
When asked why the dispute had arisen, he said: “You could say that a French election is approaching.” Truss seemed angry about the dispute and said, “I’m not even remotely happy about what has happened.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism