French Threaten Christmas Power Cuts and Blockades over Fishing Access in British Waters

ST HELIER, JERSEY - MAY 06: A French fishing boat with a protest sign opposing new fishing licenses on May 6, 2021 in St Helier, Jersey. Up to 80 French fishing boats sailed to St Helier Harbour at 07:00 this morning to protest new fishing licences issued last Friday by …
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The French have threatened to cut off energy supplies and even potentially blockade supply routes into Britain during the Christmas season in response to a spat over post-Brexit fishing access in UK waters.

French fishermen have said that they intend to enact blockades of the English Channel tunnel and the port of Calais to block supplies coming from continental Europe into Britain if the UK does not give in to their demands on fishing access.

“If negotiating fails, we will stop all French and European products reaching the UK, and we will stop all British products reaching Europe. Unless Boris backs down, the Brits will not have so many nice things to eat this Christmas. I hope it doesn’t come to that,” the head of the northern France fisheries committee, Olivier Lepretre, said per The Times.

The French government has also said it will seek to impose restrictions on energy trade after the majority of small French fishing vessels were denied access to operate in inner-British waters.

French Europe Minister Clément Beaune said: “The UK depends on our energy exports, they think they can live alone while also beating up on Europe and, given that it doesn’t work, they engage in aggressive one-upmanship.”

It is estimated that around 47 per cent of energy imports come from France and with energy shortages already being witnessed accross the country, the consequences of a cut from the French could have serious consequences for the lives of ordinary Britons.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex accused the UK of not respecting its Brexit deal commitments on fishing.

“Britain does not respect its own signature,” he said, adding: “Month after month, the UK presents new conditions and delays giving definitive licences… this cannot be tolerated.”

The United Kingdom’s Brexit negotiator, Lord David Frost denied there have been any breaches of agreements on fishing access, saying that Britain has been “extremely generous” with European fishermen, claiming that 98 per cent of licence applications have been granted to EU boats.

Lord Forst said that the threats coming from France over the dispute is inappropriate and “not how we should behave”.

“We’ve not made those sort of direct threats to our neighbours, and the vaccine export ban earlier this year is another example of where the EU resorts to these sorts of threats quite quickly… We don’t, and I don’t see why our neighbours feel they have to,” he said.

Leading Brexit campaigner and Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith also took aim at the French, surmising that the threats were motivated by politics, with President Emmanuel Macron facing a tough re-election battle next year and therefore wishes to be seen as tough by standing up to “perfidious Albion”.

The top Tory said there is no reason why the British government should back down in the face of French threats, saying: “We negotiated something. Hard luck if the French don’t like it.”

Sir Iain also noted that intransigence from French fishermen has been longstanding and predates the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

In 2012, for example, a series of spats on the seas — dubbed by the media at the time as the ‘Scallop War’ — saw British scallop trawlers surrounded, rammed, and pelted with rocks by French ships. The French fishermen justified their actions by claiming the British had entered into the 12-mile fishing exclusion zone — a claim denied by the British fishermen.

In May, two British Navy warships were dispatched to the Island of Jersey, a British territory fifteen miles off the coast of France, after 60 French fishing boats attempted to impose a blockade on the Crown Dependency again over access to the UK’s lucrative fisheries.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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