Boris Johnson tonight demanded that Emmanuel Macron rein in his ministers stoking tensions over fishing rights – and warned that the UK ‘stands ready’ to respond if Paris escalates the situation.
The PM fired a shot across Mr Macron’s bows ahead of a meeting between the pair on Sunday – despite insisting that the cross-Channel relationship is one of the UK’s ‘best and oldest’.
And he stressed the government will do ‘whatever is necessary’ to ensure that British fishing fleets can go about their ‘lawful’ business.
The French ambassador to London has been summoned to explain a series of threats in the row over rights to fish in British waters.
France’s fleet has been incensed that it has been refused permits, even though the UK authorities insist boats are granted access if they can prove they have historically been using them – in line with the post-Brexit trade deal.
A Scottish registered scallop dredger was also detained in Le Havre in an apparent ramping up.
France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune has been posturing about tough action by insisting the only language Britain understands is ‘the language of force’.
Speaking to reporters en route to the G20 summit in Rome tonight, Mr Johnson stressed that he did not believe Mr Macron himself – who is facing a presidential election battle next spring – was making threats.
Mr Johnson said: ‘France is one of our best oldest closest allies, friends and partners.
‘The ties that unite us and bind us together are far stronger than the turbulence that currently exists in the relationship.
‘That is what I will say to Emmanuel who is a friend I have known for many years.’
Speaking to reporters en route to the G20 summit in Rome tonight, Boris Johnson (pictured) stressed that he did not believe French President Emmanuel Macron himself – who is facing a presidential election battle next spring – was making threats.
Asked about claims France is ready to disrupt trade over Christmas in the dispute, Mr Johnson said: ‘We will do whatever is necessary to ensure UK interests. But I haven’t heard that from our French friends. I would be surprised if they adopted that approach.’ (Pictured: Macron)
Mr Johnson also said that ‘France is one of our best oldest closest allies, friends and partners’ (pictured with Macron)
Boris and Carrie Johnson were pictured arriving in Italy Friday night for the G20 summit in Rome, donning black face masks featuring a Union Jack
Officials of the British Embassy were pictured arriving today at the British trawler detained in Le Havre’s harbour, northern France
British Embassy Staff boarded the Cornelis Gert Jan to meet with the British crew, who were advised to stay onboard for their own safety as the row with France continues
The British boat’s detention comes amid a flare-up of the ongoing dispute over fishing rights. This was sparked by licensing rules for EU fishing boats wanting to operate in waters around Britain and the Channel Islands
Lord Frost today warned Brussels that Britain will carry out ‘rigorous checks’ on all EU fishing boats in UK waters if France goes through with threats to block British vessels from French ports (Pictured: British Embassy staff meet with crew of seized British trawler)
But in an apparent dig at Mr Beaune and other allies of the French president, he said: ‘There may be people on both sides of the Channel who may think they have an interest in promoting disharmony between the UK and France, promoting the impression of disharmony between the UK and France.
‘I don’t think Emmanuel shares that perspective personally at all.’
Mr Johnson said: ‘On the particular issues that we have, we are puzzled about what is going on. We fear that there may be a breach of the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement implicit on what is happening and some of the things that are being said. We stand by to take the appropriate action.’
Asked about claims France is ready to disrupt trade over Christmas in the dispute, Mr Johnson said: ‘We will do whatever is necessary to ensure UK interests. But I haven’t heard that from our French friends. I would be surprised if they adopted that approach.’
It comes after Lord Frost today warned Brussels that Britain will carry out ‘rigorous checks’ on all EU fishing boats in UK waters if France goes through with threats to block British vessels from French ports.
A rumbling row over post-Brexit fishing licences escalated this week as Paris threatened action if the UK does not grant permission to more French boats to work in British waters.
French ministers have said they could block British boats from ports and tighten checks on vessels if the UK does not give in by Tuesday next week.
But the fishing row was also brought up as Lord Frost set out his ‘concerns about the unjustified measures’ threatened by France.
Lord Frost today warned Brussels that Britain will carry out ‘rigorous checks’ on all EU fishing boats in UK waters if France goes through with threats to block British vessels from French ports
Lord Frost, the Government’s Brexit chief, met with his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic in London today for talks on improving the Northern Ireland Protocol
Britain was last night preparing to retaliate after a UK trawler – the Cornelis Gert Jan (pictured right in in Le Havre, France, October 29, 2021) – was detained by France amid fears the fishing row could spark a full-blown trade war
The minister said if France goes ahead with its plans then the EU would be in breach of the Brexit deal and the UK would retaliate by rolling out tougher enforcement action in British waters.
The UK would also look to trigger formal ‘dispute settlement proceedings’ against the bloc.
The fishing row stepped up a gear yesterday after a UK trawler was detained by France amid fears the friction could spark a full-blown trade war.
The Cornelis Gert Jan was ordered to divert to Le Havre after French authorities said it did not have a licence.
The trawler’s boss claimed his vessel was being used as a ‘pawn’ in the fishing dispute and blasted the ‘politically motivated’ French.
A UK Government spokesman said after today’s meeting: ‘Lord Frost also set out to the Vice President our concerns about the unjustified measures announced by France earlier this week to disrupt UK fisheries and wider trade, to threaten energy supplies, and to block further cooperation between the UK and the EU, for example on the Horizon research programme.
‘Lord Frost made clear that, if these actions were implemented as planned on 2 November, they would put the European Union in breach of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
‘The Government is accordingly considering the possibility, in those circumstances, of launching dispute settlement proceedings under the TCA, and of other practical responses, including implementing rigorous enforcement processes and checks on EU fishing activity in UK territorial waters, within the terms of the TCA.’
Crew members of the scallop trawler Cornelis Gert Jan are pictured this morning in Le Havre shortening the mooring line
A European Commission spokesman said after the meeting: ‘The Vice President encouraged the UK to intensify discussions with the European Commission and France in order to swiftly resolve the issue of pending fishing licences. All French vessels entitled to a licence should receive one.’
The focus of today’s meeting was on negotiations relating to improving post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland.
The UK said this week’s talks on the protocol had been ‘conducted in a constructive spirit’ but the ‘gaps between us remain substantial’ and more talks will take place in Brussels next week.
What is the fishing row between the UK and France about?
– How did Brexit spark the fishing feud?
When the UK left the EU, it also left the common fisheries policy, which since 1970 has allowed the bloc’s members access to all European waters outside the first 12 nautical miles of each country’s coastline.
The Brexit deal outlined how EU boats could continue to fish in UK waters, but British fishermen would get a greater share of the catch from those domestic waters.
Most of the share is being transferred to the UK this year, and there will be annual negotiations to decide how the catch is shared out going forwards.
– Why has this inflamed tensions with France?
The rollout of the post-Brexit arrangements has caused a row, with Paris accusing the UK of failing to grant permission to every eligible French boat to fish in British waters.
But the UK is adamant that it is following the terms of the Brexit deal which requires trawlers to provide historical GPS data to prove they worked in those waters before Brexit.
Some vessels have been unable to provide that data which has seen their applications for a licence be rejected.
The Government has insisted 98 per cent of all EU fishing licence requests have been granted but France believes it is being shortchanged.
– What is France threatening to do?
French ministers have warned they will block British boats from some French ports and tighten checks on vessels travelling between France and the UK if the fishing licence dispute is not resolved by Tuesday next week.
France’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, told French TV news channel CNews: ‘We have been extremely patient. Our fishermen have been extremely responsible. And so, from November 2, it’s over. We will engage in dialogue if the British want to, but we are taking retaliatory measures.’
– How has the UK responded?
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the French threats risk breaching the terms of the Brexit deal and EU law.
He warned the UK would respond in an ‘appropriate and calibrated’ manner if they were carried out.
The UK Government is calling for ‘calm’, with the Foreign Office summoning the French ambassador to explain the actions taken by Paris.
– Why was the British trawler detained?
The scallop vessel Cornelis was ordered to divert to the port of Le Havre after the French authorities said it was fishing in French waters without a licence.
The French said that another British trawler had been fined for obstruction after refusing to allow police to board to carry out checks.
The owner of the Cornelis, Macduff Shellfish, said the vessel had been fishing legally in French waters and called on the British Government to protect the rights of British fishermen.