It could get very ugly! France and UK on verge of open confrontation over Brexit fishing

Brexit: Fishing row could be ‘getting ugly’ says Andy Mayer

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French fishing industry representatives have threatened to block the port of Calais and stop exports to the UK in the run-up to Christmas, in the escalating dispute over fishing rights. French fishermen say they feel deceived by the UK Government for failing to grant them enough post-Brexit fishing licences to access British waters. Andy Mayer, Chief Operating Officer for the Institute of Economic Affairs, has warned it “could get very ugly”.

Speaking to GB News, Mr Mayer said: “The blockades come from the fishermen themselves. They are angry and they are reasonably angry because for them this is personal.

“This is a direct threat to their livelihoods. Some of them are claiming they’re losing about half their income because of this exclusion if they don’t get a licence.

“You might see that but it’s already happened once and they retreated at the last minute.

“If it does happen then the British will respond in kind and it could start getting very ugly.”

French fury was sparked after the Government in London announced last month that it had approved just 12 of the 47 applications it had received from French small boats.

Those denied licences were unable to prove a track record of fishing activity in the six-to-12 nautical mile zone in the years before the UK’s departure from the EU, according to a UK Government spokesman.

But the Hauts-de-France fishing committee said the French have worked “meticulously” to provide that evidence, calling the British allocation an “unacceptable decision” on Tuesday.

Mr Lepretre’s threat came a week after he held talks with French maritime minister Annick Girardin, who has asked the European Commission for possible retaliatory measures.

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Ms Girardin met virtually with France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune and MEPs Pierre Karleskind and Nathalie Loiseau to “defend the rights of our fishermen”, according to a Wednesday tweet by Ms Loiseau.

“They don’t have to pay the price for #Brexit,” she posted, pledging “calmness, firmness and determination”.

A day earlier, Mr Beaune said France would “take European or national measures to exert pressure on the UK”, and hinted that Britain’s imported energy supply could be disrupted in retaliation for a lack of access to UK waters.

The UK’s Brexit minister, Lord Frost, said it was “unreasonable” to suggest the UK was acting in bad faith when it came to allocating post-Brexit fishing licences to French boats, accusing France of being disingenuous over the UK’s position on fishing access.

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“We have been extremely generous and the French, focusing in on a small category of boats and claiming we have behaved unreasonably, I think is not really a fair reflection of the efforts we have made,” he told a Conservative Party conference fringe event on Tuesday.

“The Government has this year issued a large number of licences to EU vessels seeking to fish in our exclusive economic zone (12-200 nautical mile zone) and our territorial sea (six-12 nautical mile zone),” a UK Government spokesman told the PA news agency.

The spokesman added that the approach had been “fully in line” with the UK’s commitments in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) agreed as part of the Brexit divorce deal.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the UK will be “calm but resolute” in the row.

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