After having long threatened the United Kingdom with retaliatory measures, France is pushing forward its timetable. “Ban on disembarkation”, “Customs controls” increased: Paris announced the entry into force, Tuesday, November 2, of a first round of measures against London and the Channel Islands if the number of licenses granted to French fishermen remained insufficient.
At the end of the Council of Ministers, Wednesday, October 27, after a final round of all-out discussions, the decision fell: if no progress is made by the beginning of November, Paris has decided to “The ban on the landing of seafood” British in France and the establishment of “Systematic customs and health checks on British products landed”.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal also spoke of a gradual response, with a possible “Second series of measures”, “In particular energy measures relating to the supply of electricity for the Channel Islands”.
“The threats from France are disappointing and disproportionate, and do not correspond to what one might expect from a close ally and partner”said a spokesman for the British government, quoted in a tweet from Secretary of State for relations with the European Union (EU), David Frost, who denounced the absence of “Official communication from the French government on this subject”.
Reacting to French threats, a spokesman for Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, replied that there had been no “No formal contact” with the French government on this point. “It is important to stress that 98% of fishing licenses have been granted. We continue to work with the French government to grant more based on the evidence it provides ”, he added, citing a figure that differs greatly from that brandished by the French.
In the evening, a joint press release from the Secretariat for European Affairs and the French Ministry of the Sea clarified the measures taken: “Ban on landing of British fishing vessels in designated ports”, that is to say the six French ports where disembarkation is currently taking place, as well as a “Strengthening of controls” health, customs and safety of British ships. Finally, a measure goes further, announcing a particular zeal in the “Checks on lorries to and from the United Kingdom”, whatever their cargo.
The fire has been smoldering for weeks: among the areas of friction since the Brexit between Paris and London, that of fishing remains explosive, although it concerns only a relatively small number of players. Some 80% of British seafood is destined for export, with France as the first recipient country within the EU. France does not “Will not let Britain wipe its feet on the Brexit deal”, insisted the spokesperson for the French government.
The post-Brexit agreement, concluded in extremis at the end of 2020 between London and Brussels, provides that European fishermen can continue to work in certain British waters provided they can prove that they were fishing there previously. But the French and the British argue over the nature and extent of the supporting documents to be provided.
In the still disputed fishing zones (6-12 mile zone of the British coasts and the Channel Islands), London and Jersey have granted a little more than 210 definitive licenses, while Paris is still asking for 244. “Almost 50% of the licenses to which we are entitled are missing”, said Attal.
The French decision fits “In a European approach”, said the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune. “At the same time, we approached the European Commission to have a first-floor dispute settlement meeting. “
“No other subject of European cooperation with the United Kingdom will be able to progress without restoring confidence and fully implementing the agreements signed”, specifies the government press release.
The Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, had warned that she wanted a comprehensive solution by the 1er November, since the island of Jersey gave a period of one month (until October 30) to 75 French boats to provide new information and reopen their file. As these vessels are currently on the red list, they will no longer be able to spawn in Jersey waters as of Monday.
The situation is also very tense in the region of Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais), where dozens of fishermen have not been able to access British waters for months. Stéphane Pinto is in this case: “Since April, we have been at more than 50% of operating losses”, he said, believing that it has been a long time since the state and the EU “Should have reacted”. On the Norman side, the president of the regional fisheries committee, Dimitri Rogoff, is satisfied to see the subject “At the top of the stack” and warns that the fishermen are going “Toughen up the tone locally”.