Fishing: Expect 'retaliation' from licence blocks says French minister
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Bruno Bonnell, a member of the French parliament who is in the same party as Emmanuel Macron, argued that the row started over a lack of licences for France’s trawlers. One UK trawler has been detained in a French port in an escalation of the diplomatic row triggered by France claiming there is a lack of licences for French boats to fish in UK waters. French ministers have warned they will block British boats from some French ports and tighten checks on vessels travelling between France and the UK if the issue is not resolved by Tuesday – as well as threatening the electricity supply to the Channel Islands.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Bonnell said: “I like the idea that France is threatening but I like the idea too that we have 244 boats waiting for their licence to fish and that’s where the whole thing started.
“It’s like a chicken and egg situation, now the blame is on France when it was originally on someone else.
“Let’s say that we will break no law for sure. Let’s say that the law we’re respecting, we’d just like this to be applied.”
Presenter Nick Robinson asked: “You won’t break the law but you are willing to just go a little bit slow when it comes to approving licences, doing custom checks for boats and lorries?”
Mr Bonnell continued: “Yes, talk about it to the French fishermen who will be losing 25 percent of their business every month because they don’t get the licence.
“If we do face a situation where there is a blockade, there will be some retaliation.
“I don’t know if it’s fair or not, I just know the whole thing started because the principle of the deal out of Brexit was broken by the British authorities.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice did not rule out blocking French vessels in return as he struck out at a claim from France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune that the only language Britain understands is “the language of force”.
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Mr Eustice told BBC Breakfast: “That is completely inflammatory and is the wrong way to go about things.”
Asked how the UK will respond if France does go ahead and block British trawlers, the Cabinet minister said: “Two can play at that game.”
He insisted any British response would be “proportionate”, adding: “It’s always open to us to increase the enforcement we do on French vessels, to board more of them if that’s what they’re doing to our vessels – there are other administrative things we can require of vessels.”
Pressed if the Government could block French vessels landing their catches in the UK, he responded: “If the French obviously do continue with this, then yes, we will take a proportionate response to that.”
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Mr Eustice acknowledged that the France detaining the British vessel may have been a “routine operation” but has received mainstream attention because French authorities last week “said they were going to introduce all sorts of problems and make life difficult for people”.
Britain has said France’s threat would likely breach EU law and Ms Truss has said she will ask the ambassador “to explain the disappointing and disproportionate threats made against the UK and Channel Islands”.
UK ministers met on Thursday to consider the response, with the prospect of tit-for-tat action if France carries out its threats.
Brexit minister Lord Frost, who chaired the meeting, said: “I remain concerned by French plans on fisheries and beyond”, adding that “we expect to have more to say” on Friday.
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