Politics

‘Bandit’ French fishermen shamed for illegal threat to block UK ships under no deal Brexit

Brexit: EU ‘acting like mafia’ over fishing says columnist

Brexiteer Lord Lilley made the comments during a TimesRadio discussion with host John Pienaar on the potential post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. It comes as talks with the Brussels trading bloc reach a crucial stage, with both sides failing to reach a compromise on the three major sticking points of state aid, fishing rights and governance.

Of the UK’s chances of striking a trade deal with Brussels, Lord Lilley claimed “it would great if there is one”.

He added: “If not, then we take sensible steps to ensure we prosper mightily without one.”

With the totemic issue of fisheries proving to be a major obstacle to achieving an agreement with the EU, Lord Lilley attacked the notion of French fishermen imposing blockades on UK vessels to stop them accessing vital shipping routes if no deal is agreed.

Addressing these concerns, the Brexiteer said: “At present, the EU does not have any right to fish in Norwegian waters.

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“It is negotiated every year. And any fish the Norwegians cannot catch is allocated to other nations.

“And there are no blockades or anything like that.”

Lord Lilley explained if there was no deal the UK would have to face tariffs, but they would be “relatively modest”.

He said: “The price of British fish in France would go up slightly.

“The French might consume a little less and we would probably consume rather more.

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“But to suggest they could blockade our fish would be illegal in international law. They would be breaking international law.

“Are you saying we should give in to threats to break international law and let them behave like bandits?”

Lord Lilley’s remarks come after it emerged French fishermen have vowed to blockade Dover and Calais if there is no post-Brexit trade deal struck between the UK and the EU.

Trawlermen said they would respond to being denied access to UK waters by impeding vital ferry routes carrying goods from entering major UK ports.

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Dimitri Rogoff, president of Normandy’s regional fisheries committee, told radio station France Info: “If we are deprived of our fishing grounds, we will not watch the British supply the French market.

“There will therefore be blockages to ferries since this mainly happens by ferries. And on that, we are quite clear and determined.”

Mr Rogoff’s blistering intervention came after Michel Barnier told EU chiefs on Monday No10 had backed down on some of its fisheries red lines – something Britain refuted.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week renewed his calls for a “fair agreement” on access to UK waters for French vessels post-Brexit.

Speaking at the EU Summit in Brussels on Friday, he said: “I don’t want to have my cake and eat it too, no, but I do want a fair agreement.

“All I want is a cake that’s worth its weight. Because I won’t give up my share of it either.”

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