via Associated Press
FISHING – A “warning shot” before toughening up the tone: the national committee of peaches French announced this Thursday the blocking Friday, November 26 of access to three ports and the Channel Tunnel for goods, to require the prompt granting of fishing licenses post-Brexit.
The British government immediately reacted, saying it was “disappointed” by these “threats of protest”, and urged France to “ensure that illegal acts are not committed and that trade is not affected”.
“The UK must respect the post-Brexit agreement”
“We don’t want handouts, we just want our licenses back. The UK must abide by the post-Brexit deal. Too many fishermen are still in the dark, ”Gérard Romiti, president of the national committee, said shortly before a press conference.
The fishermen will block the arrival of the ferries at sea in three ports in the Channel: Saint-Malo (from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.), Calais (from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and Ouistreham (2 p.m. to 4 p.m.).
On land, they will also block the access of freight trucks to the Channel Tunnel freight terminal for a few hours. The objective here is to block “exports (…) to England, to reach the British population and make people aware of what is happening. They have access to the European market and we still do not have access to their waters, ”explained Olivier Leprêtre, president of the Hauts-de-France fisheries committee.
“We have been waiting with our mouths open for eleven months. We hope that this warning shot will be heard ”, repeated Gérard Romiti.
“If we have to go further, we will target other products”, added Mr. Leprêtre, specifying that the slogan for this Friday was “to let passengers pass and to block the freight”.
This movement is a response to the “provocative” and “humiliating” attitude of the British. “This issue of licenses is the tree that hides the forest: its resolution will depend on long-term relations with the United Kingdom,” warned the chairman of the national committee.
While questioning the robustness of the European commitment alongside EU fishermen, he welcomed the “ultimatum” launched Wednesday by the European Commission, which asked London to settle this dispute by December 10.
Under the Brexit agreement signed at the end of 2020 between London and Brussels, European fishermen can continue to work in British waters provided they can prove that they were fishing there before. But the French and the British argue over the nature and extent of the supporting documents to be provided.
In total, since January 1, 2021, France has obtained “more than 960 licenses” for fishing in British waters and the Channel Islands, but Paris is still asking for more than 150 authorizations, according to the French Ministry of the Sea.
The fishermen do not want to “be an adjustment variable” in the complex dossier of post-Brexit relations between the UK and the EU, already cluttered with Irish and migration issues.
Fishermen comforted by Emmanuel Macron
In the case of fishing, the tone has risen several times. Last May, a French flotilla headed for the Channel Island of Jersey for a blockade of a few hours, leading to the dispatch of British patrol boats. In the fall, Paris threatened London with “retaliatory measures”, before giving it up temporarily to give the negotiations in Brussels a chance.
French fishermen today feel comforted by the renewed support last Sunday from President Emmanuel Macron and his Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin, who assured that they would fight to the end to defend their interests.
The situation is particularly dramatic for a few dozen ships which no longer have any access to British waters, with losses ranging from 20 to 50% of turnover, especially in the Boulonnais.
In the absence of British licenses for European vessels, fishermen warn of a risk of over-exploitation of the resource on the French side. “Boris Johnson must be aware of this, warns Olivier Leprêtre: there is no barrier at sea, everyone will be affected”.
To see also on The HuffPost: In Jersey, this Englishman fired the first vis-a-vis the “invasion” of the French fishermen