Politics

Fishing row: Europe minister warns ‘force seems to be the only thing British understand’

France seizes British boat amidst Brexit fishing row

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France also threatened to block UK boats from its ports, unleash a red-tape nightmare on exporters and warned that power supplies to Jersey could be cut unless more of its fishermen are given access to UK waters by Tuesday. Its Europe Minister Clement Beaune ramped up the rhetoric, saying: “We need to speak the language of force because that seems to be the only thing this British Government understands.”

Tory MPs said the sabre-rattling was sad “posturing” by France and President Emmanuel Macron, and urged the Government to stand up to “the threats of little Napoleons clinging on to power”. After an emergency meeting of ministers yesterday, Ms Truss said the French ambassador Catherine Colonna had been summoned to meet Europe Minister Wendy Morton to “explain the disappointing and disproportionate threats”.

The French government and EU Commission have been told the UK has strong concerns about the rabble-rousing, which appears to break international law.

The UK Government also said the “confrontational” comments made it harder to reach a solution.

It came after scallop vessel Cornelis was ordered to divert to Le Havre when French authorities said it was fishing in its waters without a licence. Another British trawler was fined for obstruction after refusing to allow police to carry out checks.

France says more of its fisherman should be allowed to fish in waters around the UK and Jersey and is angry dozens of applications for permits have been turned down. But ministers insist 98 percent of licence applications from EU vessels were granted and the UK will consider any further evidence on the remainder. But Mr Beaune responded: “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.”

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen hit back, saying: “History shows our interests are best served by standing up to the threats of little Napoleons clinging on to power.”

Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith added: “We know the French presidency is up for grabs and the current president isn’t that popular.

“He’s trying to pull the tail of the lion.There’s a lot of posturing.” 

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Analysis by Peter Allen

There is far more than scallops at stake here.

President Emmanuel Macron’s administration has pledged unwavering support to its seamen, but as part of a much wider campaign against the implementation of Brexit.

Just as crucially, Mr Macron is expected to go head-to-head against a far-Right candidate in France’s presidential election in April.

The main rivals who might prevent him enjoying another five years in power are Marine Le Pen, of the National Rally, and the TV pundit Eric Zemmour, who has convictions for spreading racial hatred.

A nationalistic struggle against near-neighbours Britain is certain to impress their kind of voters as Mr Macron attempts to win them over.

All would certainly have been impressed by the strong-arm tactics displayed by French police on Wednesday when they detained the skipper of Cornelis Gert Jan, a Scottish scallop trawler.

Such posturing is typical of the French, despite the country considering itself a bastion of international diplomacy. It has also threatened to cut power to Jersey and Guernsey, served by undersea cables from France.

As the ballot nears, Mr Macron will no doubt encourage his ministers to keep up their tough campaign against their traditional foes across the Channel.

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