France’s ambassador to the UK has been summoned to meet foreign secretary Liz Truss tomorrow as Paris refuses to back down over its threats to ban UK seafood and impose trade barriers.
Truss said she wanted ambassador Catherine Colonna to explain to the UK’s Europe minister Wendy Morton the “disappointing and disproportionate threats made against the UK and Channel Islands” as a part of a bitter post-Brexit fishing licences row.
Clement Beaune, France’s European minister, today said the British government only understands “the language of force”, after Boris Johnson’s government accused Emmanuel Macron of threatening to break international law.
Paris claims it is owed hundreds of licences to allow French fishing boats to operate in British waters, with the row reaching boiling point today when a Scottish trawler was detained by French authorities.
The vessel’s owner claims he is being used as a “pawn”.
France says it will ban British seafood and bring in “systematic customs and sanitary inspections on imported products arriving in Channel ports … as well and checks on lorries” if the UK does not grant the requested fishing licences by next Tuesday.
France is also threatening to switch off energy supplies to Channel Islands Guernsey and Jersey as the next step of retaliation.
Environment secretary George Eustice said any delay was because French fishermen had not provided the necessary paperwork to process new licences.
“The measures being threatened do not appear to be compatible with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement or wider international law,” Eustice said.
“If carried through they will be met with an appropriate and calibrated response.”
Beaune hit back at Eustice shortly after, saying “we will show no tolerance, no indulgence”.
It is unclear if France is able to carry through with its threats without the permission of the EU.
France claims the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement gave its fishermen the right to 175 licences to work between six and 12 nautical miles off the coast of mainland Britain, but the UK has only handed out 103 this year.
Under the terms of the post-Brexit trade deal, EU fishing vessels have to show they have a “track record” of operating in British waters to get a renewed licence.
The UK says French fishermen who have not been given licences have not been able to prove their historical operation in British waters.
Macron spokesperson Gabriel Attal yesterday said France would bring in “systematic customs and sanitary inspections on imported products arriving in Channel ports, a ban on disembarking seafood products as well and checks on lorries” along with the seafood ban next Tuesday.
“Things are clear and we have said that we won’t let the British wipe their feet on the Brexit agreement,” Attal said.
“In concrete terms the government has established a list of licences to which we have the right. We have been working with the British and we have given them all the data, all the documents, all the information they request in support of these applications.”