French trawlers threaten to block Channel ports over post-Brexit fishing row

‘We’re going to consider direct action, because this has to end’

Emily Atkinson
Monday 18 October 2021 02:14
<p>A fishing boat at work in the English Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)</p>

A fishing boat at work in the English Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

French trawlers are threatening to create a blockade in the Channel after the EU refused to back the French prime minister’s demand for tough action against the UK over post-Brexit rights.

Emmanuel Macron’s plea followed Jersey granting licences to only 12 small French boats out of 47 who applied in summer.

The EU declined to act on the bid from Paris, instead announcing they would engage in more ‘technical’ work - provoking French fisherman to take matters into their own hands.

Pierre-Yves Dachicourt, a fisherman from the northern Channel town of Boulogne, told the MailOnline there was potential for be blockades to be created in ports like Calais and Boulogne.

“We were promised to be able to go fishing in English waters, but after 1 January, it’s forbidden to us. We’re losing 50 per cent of our income,” he said.

“We’re going to consider direct action, because this has to end. We can’t live like that.”

Maritime minister, Annick Girardin, said France and the EU would work on a response over the next fortnight unless the UK was able to resolve the dispute quickly.

She called on other European countries to rally their supporting, saying: “what France is going through today, some others will also go through it”.

French government spokesman, Gabriel Attal, said the moves by the UK and Jersey authorities were “totally unacceptable and inadmissible” and “contravene the agreement that was signed in the framework of Brexit”.He said: “We are going to continue and step up our work with the [European] Commission to move forward on this issue, and also to study possible retaliation measures that could be taken if the agreement is not respected.”

A further 75 vessels were reportedly denied access because they failed to provide evidence that they had fished in the six-to-12-mile nautical zone in advance of UK’s exit from the EU, according to the MailOnline.

According to Jersey external relations minister Ian Gorst, the island’s government had taken “a pragmatic, reasonable and evidence-based approach’ to the problem.”

The matter of fishing rights was a sore point of contention between the UK and France during Brexit negotiations.

The relationship between the two countries has been fraught in recent months. Last month, Boris Johnson told Emmanuel Macron to “get a grip” and “donnez-moi un break” after France’s furious reaction to the UK’s defence pact with the US and Australia.

His confrontational language came as Paris and Washington made efforts to mend relations, with Macron agreeing to return France’s ambassador to the US following a phone call with president Joe Biden.

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