French Fishermen Set to Block Eurotunnel, Ports amid London-Paris Fishing Row
By Staff, Agencies
French fishermen are expected to block freight traffic into the Eurotunnel and ferry traffic at the ports of Saint-Malo, Ouistreham, and Calais in northern France for several hours on Friday, as part of the London-Paris row over fishing licenses in the wake of Brexit.
In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Gerard Romiti, chairman of France's national fisheries committee [CNPMEM], stressed that "the fishermen are demanding an immediate resolution to the dispute with the UK over the interpretation of the Brexit agreement."
He described the committee's upcoming action on Friday as "our demonstration of the quality and ability of professional fishermen to mobilize in response to the UK's provocative, contemptuous, and humiliating attitude towards them."
"We don't want handouts, we just want our licenses back. The UK must abide by the post-Brexit deal. Too many fishermen are still in the dark. We have been waiting with bated breath for 11 months. The patience of professionals has limits. We hope this warning shot will be heard", the CNPMEM chairman said.
A Downing Street spokesperson responded by stating that the government was "disappointed" by French fishermen's threats of "protest activity", adding, "We look to the French authorities to ensure that there are no illegal actions and trade is not affected."
The spokesman argued that the government had licensed almost "1,700 EU vessels overall" and that Whitehall's "approach to licensing has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement [TCA]."
According to the spokesperson, the British government continues to work with the European Commission and French authorities "and will consider any further evidence provided to support remaining license applications".
The forthcoming action is expected after French fishermen blocked trucks carrying fish from British waters to processing centers in France in April. In a separate development in May, the entrance to St Helier Harbor was blocked by French fishers over an "unacceptable situation" about landing their catches in France after Brexit.
French President Emmanuel Macron, for his part, emphasized in early November that talks between Paris and London "need to continue", a statement that came after France threatened to slap sanctions on the UK over London's reluctance to issue enough fishing licenses for French fishermen to access British waters under the Brexit trade deal.
A UK government spokesperson said at the time that Downing Street hailed Macron's "acknowledgement that in-depth discussions are needed to resolve the range of difficulties in the UK/EU relationship."
Britain and France remain at odds over how to resolve the contentious issue of fishing licenses following the UK's exit from the EU. Paris insists that Britain has issued 50% fewer licenses than it was supposed to in line with previously concluded agreements.