August 9, 2022
election coming up in France, it may be that is a factor in this,

election coming up in France, it may be that is a factor in this,

Fishing row: UK warns France it could retaliate over threats

The UK could respond in turn if France goes ahead with threats amid a row over post-Brexit fishing rights, the environment secretary has said, warning that “two can play at that game”.

France has said it could stop British boats from landing if the dispute over licences was not resolved by Tuesday.

George Eustice said the language used by French officials was “inflammatory”.

He said he was raising the issue with the European Commission, while France’s ambassador has been summoned for talks.

A British trawler was seized by France and another fined during checks off Le Havre on Thursday.

French authorities said the detained vessel, the Cornelis Gert Jan, did not have a licence. This has been denied by its owner, Macduff Shellfish of Scotland.The captain of the scallop dredger will face a court hearing in August next year, French authorities said on Friday.

Mr Eustice told BBC Breakfast the trawler had been granted a licence at the beginning of the year and the government was “trying to get to the bottom” of why it had subsequently been taken off the list given to the European Union.

BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley said No 10 sources were “amazed and concerned” at the escalating row, describing the developments in recent days as “extraordinary”.

Ministers met on Thursday to discuss the situation and are understood to be considering a “range of options” to retaliate.

Who really owns UK fishing rights?
What does the Brexit deal mean for fishing?
What happens when an ambassador is summoned?
France was angered by a decision from the UK and Jersey last month to deny fishing licences to dozens of French boats to access British waters, and argued that this breached the Brexit deal.

The country has warned it would block British boats from landing their catches in some ports next week and tighten checks on UK boats and trucks if the dispute over fishing licences was not resolved by 2 November.

France has also warned it could cut electricity supplies to Jersey, a British Crown dependency, as it previously threatened in May.

Mr Eustice said only a “small number of vessels” did not qualify for licences “because they have never accessed Jersey waters before”.

He said the UK had an “ever open door” and the government would wait to see what decision is made by Tuesday, after which the UK “reserve the right to respond in a proportionate way”.

Asked about the claim by France’s Europe minister ClĂ©ment Beaune that the only language Britain understands is “the language of force”, Mr Eustice said: “That is completely inflammatory and is the wrong way to go about things.”

He added: “For now, we’re not going to respond in the way that France has, we’re going to raise this with the commission and we’re going to raise it through diplomatic channels with the French ambassador but we’ll reserve our right to do more things if France continue to press ahead with these threats.”

Mr Eustice suggested said that France was politicising the process of checking vessels this week. “There obviously is an election coming up in France, it may be that is a factor in this,” he said.

Bruno Bonnell, a French MP from President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party, told the BBC he was optimistic that by 2 November officials from both sides would “sit down and find a way”.

“There is a time for flexing muscles and putting your trump cards on the table and there are times for negotiations,” he said. “The next step is negotiations.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss asked Europe minister Wendy Morton to call France’s ambassador to the UK, Catherine Colonna, for talks later on Friday.