Brexit Fishing Wars: France Detains UK Trawler, Threatens Export Ban on British Fish

French Fisherman Victor, 21-years-old, works on board the "Nounoute" trawler during its 17-hours fishing trip on July 31, 2018 off the coast of Ouistreham, northwestern France. - This 45-year-old trawler catches Flounder during the night and Mackerel during the day. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read …
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

The French detained a British fishing vessel and have threatened to block British fish exports over the battle for post-Brexit fishing rights in the English Channel.

The boat, which was detained off the French fishing port town of Le Harve on Wednesday, was released with a “verbal” warning in an apparent retaliatory strike in the battle over post-Brexit fishing licences.

The Minister of the Sea for President Emmanuel Macron’s government, Annick Girardin, wrote on social media: “This Wednesday, two English ships were fined during classic checks off Le Havre. The first did not comply spontaneously: verbalisation. The second did not have a licence to fish in our waters: diverted to the quay and handed over to the judicial authority.”

France maintains that under the Brexit divorce agreement, 175 French fishing boats should have access to plunder fish between six and 12 nautical miles off the British coastline, yet “only” 100 such licences have been approved by the British government. Macron’s administration also claims that only 105 of 216 promised licences to fish off of Jersey have been issued, The Times reported.

The United Kingdom, for its part, has claimed that the applications were denied as they could not demonstrate enough history of fishing in the areas prior to Britain leaving the European Union. A Downing Street spokesman also said that 98 per cent of all fishing licence applications for EU boats have been approved.

A spokesman for the French government, Gabriel Attal, warned that more sanction-style measures would be announced later this week if their demands for more fishing licenses are not met.

Attal said that France will not let the British “wipe their feet on the Brexit agreement,” saying: “This is a situation that is not acceptable and I say [clearly] that our patience has run out.”

Paris initially threatened to cut off energy entirely to Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands in the English Channel and a British Crown Dependency off the coast of France.

It is now believed, however, that the French are looking at raising prices on energy instead of a full-scale cut off. Jersey receives around 95 per cent of its electricity through underwater cables from France.

On top of this, France has threatened to implement increased border checks in order to slow down the United Kingdom’s already weakened supply lines and even a possible blanket ban on British seafood. France accounts for over a quarter of British seafood exports, representing £561.1 million as of 2019.

In a statement responding to the moves, Britain’s Brexit negotiator, Lord David Frost said: “It is very disappointing that France has felt it necessary to make threats late this evening against the UK fishing industry and seemingly traders more broadly.

“As we have had no formal communication from the French government on this matter we will be seeking urgent clarification of their plans. We will consider what further action is necessary in that light,” he added weakly, following a long tradition of British government’s failing to take robust action to defend a domestic fishing industry the EU has run roughshod over for decades, destroying thousands of British jobs.

Earlier this month, the head of northern France’s fisheries committee, Olivier Lepretre, warned that his members are prepared to enact Christmas blockades of imports to the United Kingdom through the port of Calais and through the Channel Tunnel.

French vessels previously attempted a blockade which resulted in the British government dispatching two Royal Navy warships in May to protect British ships from 60 French fishing vessels trying to block their passage.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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