'Two Can Play At That Game': UK Promises Retaliation if France Escalates Post-Brexit Fishing Row

© AFP 2022 / SAMEER AL-DOUMYA French fishing boat, one of several, takes part in a protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit, on May 6, 2021. -
A French fishing boat, one of several, takes part in a protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit, on May 6, 2021. - - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.10.2021
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British trawler The Cornelis was intercepted by France in the Baie de Seine on 27 October and escorted into Le Havre port after French officials claimed its crew failed to prove it was allowed to fish in French territorial waters. The UK Government slammed France's recent warnings and actions as "disappointing and disproportionate".
Environment Secretary George Eustice has warned Paris that if it should carry out its latest threats amid the spiraling post-Brexit fishing spat, London could “respond in a proportionate way".
Weighing in on France’s threats - ranging from blocking ports and carrying out security checks on British vessels to reinforced controls of lorry traffic, customs and hygiene and raised tariffs - Eustice said on Sky News:

"We don't know what we'll do: they said they wouldn't introduce these measures until Tuesday at the earliest. We'll see what they do. But if they do bring these measures into place, well... two can play at that game and we obviously reserve the ability to respond in a proportionate way."

As part of post-Brexit arrangements, which includes the UK leaving the EU’s common fisheries policy, French trawlers are required to provide historical GPS data to prove they worked in those waters before Brexit. Paris has been fuming over a decision last month by the UK and the Crown Dependency Channel Island of Jersey to refuse dozens of French fishing boats licences to operate in their territorial waters, issuing 50 percent fewer than it was “entitled to”, according to French government spokesman Gabriel Attal.
© AP Photo / MICHEL SPINGLERFrench fishing boats (File)
French fishing boats (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.10.2021
French fishing boats (File)
George Eustice insisted the UK had issued licences to 1,700 vessels, including 750 French fishing boats, which represents 98 percent of applicants. The remaining vessels, he explained, could not prove they had fished in these waters previously, so could not get a licence under the trade and co-operation agreement.
Against this backdrop, on 27 October France suggested it might start taking steps against the UK over the issue, such as extra border checks, bans on the UK boats accessing French ports, and even actions that might affect power supplies to Britain. The next day, French authorities fined two British boats and detained a UK scallop dredger, 'Cornelis Gert Jan', escorting it to the Port of Le Havre.
© REUTERS / ARJAN BUURVELDBritish fishing trawler Cornelis Gert Jan is pictured at sea near Stellendam, Netherlands March 8, 2021 in this social media image taken with a drone
British fishing trawler Cornelis Gert Jan is pictured at sea near Stellendam, Netherlands March 8, 2021 in this social media image taken with a drone - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.10.2021
British fishing trawler Cornelis Gert Jan is pictured at sea near Stellendam, Netherlands March 8, 2021 in this social media image taken with a drone
The charge "relates to fishing in French waters without a licence and that's the bone of contention", according to the head of public affairs for Macduff Shellfish, which owns the boat. "We believe we were fishing with a valid licence and the French authorities don't," he added. British authorities have challenged France's explanation that the trawler ostensibly had no permission to fish in French waters, and summoned the French ambassador to London for talks. Two Royal Navy patrol vessels were reportedly in a state of “high readiness” on Thursday night should the situation escalate further.
On Friday, the prosecutor in the French port of Le Havre said the captain of the detained scallop trawler would be summoned to appear in court in August next year. George Eustice slammed comments made by France as "completely disproportionate, they're unacceptable".

"The things they're suggesting doing, start to make things difficult at borders, close ports, this is a clear breach not only of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) that we've got with them but also of EU law, the official control regime," he said.

The minister urged France to dial down the belligerent rhetoric, calm down and “remove these threats, they're not acceptable". He told the outlet that the UK would talk to the European Commission, which “has got a role and a responsibility to make sure its member states, including France, abide by the law, abide by the terms of the agreement that was reached.”
The European Commission has also weighed in, saying there are plans to propose to London a last round of negotiations over UK-issued fishing licences over the weekend, a fishing industry source was cited as saying by Reuters on Friday.
“There is a will to find a solution, it is not for pleasure that we are here and there is a will to find a way out. But they are determined,” said the source, adding:
“We have the same demands that we had before, we want more authorisations and we don’t want the orange [provisional licence until 31 January 2022] status, we have identified the boats that have all the elements of proof.”
Eustice was also cited by Sky News as suggesting that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson could confront French President Emmanuel Macron on the issue at the coming COP26 summit in Glasgow.
© AFP 2022 / LUDOVIC MARINBritain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and France's President Emmanuel Macron take part in a bilateral meeting during the G7 summit in Carbis bay, Cornwall on June 12, 2021.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and France's President Emmanuel Macron take part in a bilateral meeting during the G7 summit in Carbis bay, Cornwall on June 12, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.10.2021
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and France's President Emmanuel Macron take part in a bilateral meeting during the G7 summit in Carbis bay, Cornwall on June 12, 2021.
Downing Street has since confirmed that Boris Johnson will engage in a “brush by” meeting with Macron on the margins of the G20 summit in Rome this weekend and raise a “range of issues”.
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