EU Affairs Minister Frances Clment Beaune has said Paris will now use the language of force in an escalation of a post-Brexit fisheries dispute after French naval police caught a British fisherman found in the waters of its territorial without a license.
A boat was stopped in Le Havre in the early hours of Thursday morning, after which it was moved to the quay and handed over to the judicial authority, while a second was given a verbal warning.
In a statement, the French government said checks during the scallop fishing season had been routine, but acknowledged that they were carried out in the context of discussing licenses with the UK and the European Commission.
Responding to an urgent question in the Commons on Thursday, UK Environment Secretary George Eustice condemned the comments as not what we would expect from an ally and close partner and warned of possible retaliation.
The fisherman was later identified as Cornelis Gert Jan, by a spokesman for the Southwest Fish Producers Organization.
The French government has been angered in recent months by the UK and Jersey authorities’ response to post-Brexit applications by French fishing vessels for permits in its waters, which are governed by the EU-UK trade agreement agreed on the eve of last Christmas. vit.
The dispute erupted Wednesday when Paris said it would stop British fishing vessels from landing seafood in major ports by Tuesday if they did not obtain further licenses for French vessels, and vowed to impose tough controls on cross-channel trade.
There was also a threat to the UK’s energy supply if those initial sanctions from Paris did not prompt the issuance of additional permits.
Sources in Brussels confirmed that there was still no support among the other 26 member states for EU action against the UK on this issue through the dispute settlement mechanism in the trade and cooperation agreement.
Later Thursday morning, Beaune doubled down, however, on the threat of French unilateral action, saying the situation was not acceptable.
So now, we have to speak the language of force as that seems to be the only thing this British government understands, he said. We have been extremely patient, our fishing boats have been extremely responsive because it is a huge loss of their activity. By November it is over. Open the dialogue well, if the British want dialogue, it’s up to them, but they impose retaliatory measures because there is no reason for us not to have access to their waters when they have access to our ports.
The UK has claimed that 1,700 EU vessels are now licensed to fish in UK waters and that 98% of fishing license applications have been approved.
Eustice echoed that statistic in the Commons on Thursday, saying the UK stands by its commitments in the trade and cooperation agreement.
He said: It is very disappointing to see the comments that came yesterday from France. We believe that these are disappointing, disproportionate and not what we would expect from an ally and close partner.
The measures threatened do not appear to be in line with the trade and cooperation agreement, or wider international law, and if implemented will face an appropriate and calibrated response.
French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin accused the United Kingdom of spreading misinformation. The figure of 98% of licenses granted by the UK to Europeans is false, she said. Only 90.3% were. Of course, the 10% missing is for the French It has been nine months since French fishermen were no longer able to work. It is a violation of their firm by the British. That’s enough.
The main differences between the two sides focus on rights within the area of six to 12 miles off the British coast. Earlier this week, the European Commission said the UK government had approved 15 of 47 applications for French ships to operate in those coastal waters. Another 15 applications were being considered where evidence of activity in those waters is limited, but 17 applications were withdrawn by French applicants due to poor evidence.
A bigger concern for French authorities is that a third of boats applying to fish in waters outside Jersey, a British crown dependency, have also been rejected by the island government.
Barrie Deas, from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations, the body representing fishermen in England, said coming down to a small relationship was not helpful.
He told the BBCs Today program: It may be a normal enforcement action, but against the background of the threatening noises coming from the French government it is very disturbing.
France seems determined to escalate this issue regarding licenses and I think we should ask ourselves why. The presidential election in France is approaching and all signs are that the rhetoric has grown ahead of that on the issue of fisheries.
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