UK Responds to French Threat of Sanctions Over Fishing Permits Row
20:52 GMT 27.10.2021 (Updated: 21:00 GMT 27.10.2021)
France has claimed UK authorities are blocking applications for its fishermen to net catches in British territorial waters up to 6 miles of the coast, but Westminster says it has granted 98 per cent of applications from boats based in the European Union.
The UK has responded to French threats of sanctions after authorities declined Post-Brexit permits to 35 small boats to fish in British waters.
In a joint statement late on Wednesday, the French Maritime and European Affairs Ministries threatened increased customs and hygiene checks on imports arriving from the UK, potentially snarling up deliveries, banning British fishing boats docking in some French ports to sell their catches and even stop selling electricity supplies to the Channel Islands or even the whole UK.
"A second round of measures is being prepared. France is not ruling out reviewing its power supply to the UK," the ministries said.
France claims the UK has yet to grant half the licenses its fishermen need to exploit Britain's huge maritime Exclusive Economic Zone, no longer part of the Common Fisheries Policy since Britain's exit
from the European Union (EU) last year.
But row centres on British authorities' decision to grant 12 out of 47 new licenses for small French fishing boats to make catches between six and 12 miles of the UK's extensive coastline and around Jersey, the semi-independent Channel Islands Crown dependency close to northern France.
Britain insists it has been "very reasonable" so far, issuing nearly 1,700 permits to boats from the EU — 98 per cent of those applied for.
"There are several types of sanctions possible, including tariffs on energy, on the access to ports, on customs, and other measures are possible," French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.
Attal said the sanctions would come in two stages with the first imposed for several days from November 2 on "imported goods unloaded in France", followed by "energy measures such as electricity supply for the Channel Islands".
Cabinet Office Minister Lord David Frost, formerly Prime Minister Boris Johnson's chief negotiator with Brussels, tweeted that it was "very disappointing" to see Paris issuing threats late in the evening.
Frost stressed that Downing Street had received no formal notification from the Elysee Palace on the matter.
Downing Street warned earlier it would respond to the unilateral French sanctions and protest to the European Commission, the EU's Brussels
-based executive council of appointees from each member state that signed the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
"The measures being threatened do not appear to be compatible with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and wider international law," a spokesperson said. "If carried through, [they] will be met with an appropriate and calibrated response."
"We will be relaying our concerns to the EU Commission and French government," they added. "The UK stands by its commitments in the TCA and has granted 98 per cent of licence applications from EU vessels."
In his speech to the ruling Conservative Party conference in September, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson provocatively dubbed Frost "the greatest Frost since the Great Frost of 1709" — the extremely harsh winter and spring that caused some 200,000 French to starve to death in a nationwide famine.