‘Two can play at that game’ Eustice lays down gauntlet as France licence row boils over

France fishing row: Eustice says 'two can play game' amid threats

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George Eustice appeared on Sky News to give updates on the ongoing dispute between the UK and France over fishing licences being awarded. France, furious with the UK because of fishing licences being rejected, has threatened to block UK boats from landing in French ports, stopping electricity to Jersey and has seized a UK trawler claiming it had no licence to work in French waters. Mr Eustice slammed the “disproportionate” response from the French and sent the stern warning that “two can play at that game” if France wants to take on the UK.

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Eustice was interviewed over the ongoing fishing licence row which has picked up over the past few weeks.

The Tory frontbencher said the threats were not acceptable and threatened the UK would respond in kind to any French antagonisms.

Mr Eustice told Sky News: “The first thing is, the way that we approach these things and the way that you should is we will be talking to the European Commission.

“In fact, I spoke to the Commissioner two days ago when these threats were first made because the European Commission has got a role and a responsibility to make sure its member states, including France, abide by the law and abide by the terms of the agreement that was reached.

“We’ve also summoned the French ambassador and Liz Truss is going to raise these issues with her and ask her to explain and give an account of what they intend to do.

“We don’t know what they’ll do, they say they wouldn’t introduce these measures until Tuesday, probably at the earliest.

“So we will see what they do, but obviously if they do bring these into place then two can play at that game and we obviously reserve the ability to be able to respond in a proportionate way.”

The fishing licence dispute continues to worsen relations between France and the UK after French boats were required to reapply for fishing licences post-Brexit.

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Licences would only be granted to boats that could prove they have historically operated in UK waters.

But many boats lacked the correct paperwork or evidence to prove they worked in the UK meaning applications were rejected.

Grace periods were granted by the UK Government to allow France enough time to process applications.

A large portion of French boats was denied access to UK waters to fish with only 12 of 47 granted licences in September.

Jersey also rejected 75 out of 170 applications, these were mainly rejected due to lack of evidence.

President of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, Don Thompson, spoke to Express.co.uk and believed France was being “chancers” with their applications and simply sent bogus applications to see if they could squeeze through.

Mr Eustice also held a session in the House of Commons this week addressing the issue and revealed of the 1,673 licences issues, 736 has been for French vessels.

Mr Eustice called for “calm” and said he did not want to get into a tit-for-tat situation.

France’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, appeared on French news network C News and warned the UK that France was willing to speak the “language of strength” to be heard following disputes over fishing licences.

The French minister went on to say UK boats may be prevented from entering France as the two sides continue to war over the fishing licences.

He added: “Not all French ports will be accessible to British boats anymore.

“Only a few, three or four probably… It will be a very significant limitation in the access to our ports for British boats. And we will have systematic border, veterinary and security controls for British boats.

“We will show no tolerance, no indulgence. We have actually started tonight with security checks, it allowed us to board and search two British boats which did not comply with the rules so no tolerance, no indulgence.

“And we will also carry out systematic controls for lorries carrying goods arriving or leaving to the UK in Calais or elsewhere, not to cut ties and accesses but to be extremely strict with our verifications.”

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