UK poised to trigger legal battle with France over fish as early as next week, Boris Johnson warns

Emmanuel Macron calls UK’s actions a test of its credibility in the eyes of the world

<p>UK embassy officials arrive at the British trawler detained in Le Havre </p>

UK embassy officials arrive at the British trawler detained in Le Havre

The UK is ready to trigger a legal battle with France in the clash over Channel fishing rights as early as next week, Boris Johnson has warned.

Speaking at the G20 summit in Rome, the prime minister ramped up tensions between the two countries by hinting at sending the dispute to independent arbitration.

The post-Brexit trade deal includes a dispute resolution mechanism that allows controversies to be referred to an independent body, if they cannot be resolved in direct talks.

Asked if he is “not ruling out that you might trigger the mechanism next week”, Mr Johnson told Sky News: “No of course not. I don’t rule that out.”

The warning came as Emmanuel Macron turned his fire on the UK’s actions, ahead of meeting the prime minister in Rome on Sunday, supposedly about aims for the Cop26 climate summit.

He called the fishing row a test of the UK’s credibility in the eyes of the world, telling The Financial Times: “Make no mistake, it is not just for the Europeans but all of their partners.

“Because, when you spend years negotiating a treaty and then a few months later you do the opposite of what was decided, on the aspects that suit you the least, it is not a big sign of your credibility.”

Both sides are accusing the other of failing to abide by the terms of the trade and cooperation agreement, over access for French fishing vessels to UK and Jersey waters.

Mr Johnson added: “If another European country wants to break the TCA – the Trade and Cooperation agreement – then obviously we will have to take steps to protect UK interests.”

Asked if he believed France had committed a breach, he said: “I am worried that there might be. I am looking at what is going on at the moment and I think that we need to sort it out.”

In a round of interviews, Mr Johnson also:

  • Criticised China for its disappointing pre-Cop offer on cutting carbon emissions, saying: “What China needs to do is find ways of making a more ambitious, nationally determined contribution.”
  • Said the chances of success at the Glasgow summit are “about the same” as his estimate in September – when he put them at 6 out of 10.
  • Defended making internal flights cheaper, by slashing air taxes just days before Cop26, saying: “We increased air passenger duty for long haul flights, 96 per cent of CO2 emissions come from long haul flights. “What we will do is ensuring we have proper connectivity in the islands of the United Kingdom, which is an entirely sensible thing to do.
  • Said he had spoken with the Queen, after she was told to rest for two weeks, and described her as “on very good form”. “She’s just got to follow the advice of her doctors,” the prime minister said.

In the increasingly angry row over fishing rights, France has threatened to stop UK boats landing in its ports if the dispute over licences is not resolved.

And French prime minister Jean Castex has appealed to the EU for backing, to demonstrate there is “more damage to leaving the EU than to remaining there”.

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