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Sunday, December 5, 2021

France retaliates against UK in fishing spat

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PARIS — France will introduce extra controls on boats and trucks coming from the U.K. in retaliation for what it says is Britain’s failure to honor its commitments on fishing rights, the government announced Wednesday.

It also threatened to disrupt the U.K.’s energy supply if Britain fails to address French concerns over fishing licenses. London branded the proposed moves “very disappointing.”

The move comes after France last month vowed action against the U.K.’s refusal to grant fishing permits to three-quarters of small French boats that requested permission to fish in the waters between the two countries.

France said that failed to comply with the terms of the agreement on fisheries signed as part of the Brexit trade deal.

From November 2, it will ban British fishing boats from landing at designated French ports and introduce systematic security controls of British boats as well as reinforced health and customs controls, it said Wednesday. It will also reinforce checks on trucks headed to or coming from the U.K.

The affected ports should be announced at the beginning of next week, according to a French diplomatic official. They said the new controls shouldn’t apply to the Eurostar rail link between the two countries.

“There are still a big number of missing fishing licenses to which French fishermen are entitled,” the French government statement said. “To this day the United Kingdom hasn’t responded to our demands, and even introduced new conditions that aren’t included in the [post-Brexit] trade and cooperation agreement.”

It said “a second series” of measures was also “being prepared.”

“France doesn’t rule out reviewing the energy supply to the United Kingdom,” the government said in the statement.

France is also asking the European Commission to hold a meeting of the EU-UK Partnership Council “as soon as possible,” while calling for a united European response.

“No other European cooperation issue with the United Kingdom will be able to move forward without restoring trust and fully applying the signed agreements,” the statement said.

Responding to the French statement, the U.K.’s Brexit point-man David Frost launched a volley of tweets, saying it was “very disappointing that France has felt it necessary to make threats late this evening against the UK fishing industry and seemingly traders more broadly.”

And he added: “As we have had no formal communication from the French Government on this matter we will be seeking urgent clarification of their plans. We will consider what further action is necessary in that light.”

A U.K. government spokesperson meanwhile said the latest French position was “not what we would expect from a close ally and partner.”

“The measures being threatened do not appear to be compatible with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and wider international law, and, if carried through, will be met with an appropriate and calibrated response,” the spokesperson added. “We will be relaying our concerns to the EU Commission and French government.”

This story has been updated.

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