France has made a veiled threat to cut off power to the Channel Islands in the latest escalation of a long-running fishing row.
French European affairs minister Clement Beaune said “we are tired of being nice” and that he “will not stand” for French fishermen being locked out of UK waters by Downing Street.
Cabinet Office minister Lord David Frost said that the reaction was over the top and that it “is not how we should behave”.
The UK government is refusing to grant many licences for French fishermen that were a part of the post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal.
This has infuriated Paris and the country’s fishermen that rely on British waters.
Speaking to the Europe 1 broadcaster, Beaune said that Paris was ready to retaliate and noted that the Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey rely on France for their power supplies.
“Enough already, we have an agreement negotiated by France, by Michel Barnier, and it should be applied 100 per cent,” he said.
“In the next few days – and I talked to my European counterparts on this subject yesterday – we will take measures at the European level or nationally, to apply pressure on the United Kingdom.
“We defend our interests. We do it nicely, and diplomatically, but when that doesn’t work, we take measures.”
The issue of fishing access was a huge area of contention during negotiations over the UK-EU trade deal last year.
The issue sparked up again May when a flotilla of around 50 French fishing boats blocked the Jersey harbour in opposition to the UK not granting new fishing licences.
The stand-off led to UK and French military vessels being deployed to the area.
The UK government last week said it would only grant 12 of 47 new fishing licences for small EU boats, once again bringing the row back to the fore in Anglo-French relations.
“Our patience has clear limits,” Beaune said.
“We’ve negotiated calmly and nicely for nine months now, that’s enough. We can imagine, since we’re talking about energy…the United Kingdom depends on our energy supplies. It thinks that it can live all alone, and bash Europe. For example, you could imagine the Channel Islands, where the United Kingdom depends on us for its energy supply.”
Speaking at a Conservative party conference fringe event, Frost said: “For all the frustrations of the last 18 months, and particularly since January, I don’t think we as a country have resorted to those sort of threats.
“I know people get frustrated with the way we behave but we have not made those kinds of direct threats to our neighbours.
“The vaccine export ban earlier this year is another area where the EU resorts to legalism, it resorts to threats quite quickly and I just think that is not how we should behave. “We don’t, and I don’t see why our neighbours feel they have to.”