Politics Explained

Don’t expect the French government to care about fishing boat blockades

France has a long and proud tradition of direct action – it would be foolish to expect its authorities to intervene, writes Sean O’Grady

Friday 26 November 2021 23:52
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<p>French fishing boats block the entrance to the port of St Malo</p>

French fishing boats block the entrance to the port of St Malo

In its way, there is something awesome about the French tradition of direct action. With apparently little interference from the French authorities – itself part of the ritual – a relatively small bunch of French fisherfolk temporarily blockaded the ports of Calais and St Malo. Using only their little fishing boats, some vans and a few pallets set alight, they managed to disrupt Channel ferries, trade and attempts by Jersey boats to land their catch.

They made their point, and there will be more to follow, we may be sure, as Anglo-French relations recede into a sort of cold war. Fishing, the Northern Ireland protocol, the Aukus defence pact and the migration crisis are the points of dispute, and none yet shows any sign of amicable resolution. The British home secretary has been banned from entering France. The entente cordiale looks as dead as a dover sole served up in a French bistro.

It is hardly new. For many months the gilets jaunes conducted a low-level guerilla war of disruption and civil disobedience against the police and the government, in protest at escalating petrol and diesel prices, which had caused especial difficulties in rural France. The protests caused loss of life and, eventually, President Macron caved in and cancelled his fuel-tax rises.

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