LONDON (AP) – The latest post-Brexit fishing dispute between Britain and France showed few signs of abating on Monday, a day before a threat of a French blockade of British boats and trucks.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned France that the UK “will not turn around” in the face of what she called “unreasonable” threats from Paris.
The two sides have accused each other of violating the post-Brexit trade deal the UK signed with the European Union, which entered into force earlier this year.
France has threatened to deny British ships access to some of its ports and to tighten controls on boats and trucks carrying British goods if more French vessels are not allowed to fish in British waters. ‘here Tuesday. Paris also suggested that it could restrict energy supplies to the Channel Islands, British Crown dependencies off the French coast and heavily dependent on French electricity.
“The French must withdraw these threats, otherwise we will use the dispute settlement mechanism in the agreement with the EU to take action,” Truss told BBC radio. “We are just not going to turn around in the face of these threats.”
Fishing is a small industry economically, but one which occupies a symbolically important place for Great Britain and France, which have a long and dear maritime tradition. Since the start of the year, both sides have controlled their waters subject to the terms of the post-Brexit trade deal.
Paris says some vessels have been denied fishing permits in waters where they have been sailing for a long time. Britain claims to have granted 98% of requests from EU ships, and now the dispute boils down to a few dozen French ships with insufficient papers.
“We have allocated the fishing licenses completely in accordance with what is in the trade agreement with the EU and the French must withdraw these threats,” Truss said.
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Rome on Sunday, but little progress appears to have been made in resolving the dispute.
Macron warned that unless Britain makes a “significant move” to quell the dispute, Paris will introduce tighter port and border controls from Tuesday.
Truss, echoing Johnson, said the UK would respond by triggering dispute settlement measures in the post-Brexit trade deal to seek “compensatory measures” if France follows through on its threats.
The dispute is the latest to affect UK government-EU relations since the UK left the bloc’s economic orbit earlier this year.