Deadline looms to resolve Channel fishing dispute as Britain threatens legal action

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The UK and France have just two days to resolve their increasingly tense disputes over fishing rights ahead of Paris’ deadline to introduce port restrictions and border controls.

French authorities have warned it will ban British fishing vessels from certain ports and tighten customs controls on trucks entering the country with British goods from Tuesday, unless more licenses for small fishing vessels in UK waters are granted.

The dispute threatened to spill over as Brexit Minister Lord Frost accused France of a “model” of behavior against Britain, with ministers in Paris previously suggesting they could restrict the supply of energy from the UK and Jersey due to the disagreement.

The Prime Minister met in person the highest official of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, while he was in Rome for the G20 summit, to express his “concern” at the behavior of France.

In an escalation of the dispute, Lord Frost warned Brussels that the whole bloc would violate the terms of the post-Brexit free trade agreement with Britain if France followed through on its threats.

The Tory peer, in a series of tweets on Saturday, said the UK “is actively considering” triggering legal proceedings included in the trade deal to resolve the issue.

He said: “These threats, if implemented on November 2, would put the EU in violation of its obligations under our trade agreement.

“We are therefore actively considering initiating a dispute settlement procedure in accordance with Article 738 of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TAC). “

A letter from French Prime Minister Jean Castex to European Commission President von der Leyen, in which he said the UK should be shown “that it does more harm to leave the EU than to leave the EU there stay, ”sparked fury in London.

Cabinet Minister Lord Frost said the comments were “very disturbing and very problematic”, especially with the “very sensitive” negotiations now underway with Brussels to find a solution to the Northern Ireland protocol.

The Sunday Telegraph quoted a senior government source as saying Mr Castex’s letter “definitely raises the question” of whether the EU is “acting in good faith” in the Northern Ireland talks .

During a meeting with Ms von der Leyen on the sidelines of the G20, Mr Johnson warned against France’s “rhetoric”.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister has raised concerns about the French government‘s rhetoric in recent days on the issue of fishing licenses.

“The Prime Minister stressed that the French threats are completely unjustified and do not appear compatible with the UK-EU trade and cooperation agreement or with broader international law.”

The row over access to the fishery escalated this week after French authorities shut down a scallop dredge registered in Scotland, accusing it of fishing without a license.

The ship’s captain Cornelis Gert Jan, believed to be an Irish national, was invited to appear in court in August next year.

Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron punch at G20 Rome summit Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

Prime Minister and French President Emmanuel Macron – who were seen punching each other in a photo op in the Italian capital – are due to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit this weekend. end.

It comes as the two leaders have been warned by environmental experts to put their differences over fisheries behind them or endanger the key UN climate conference Cop26.

Professor Lord Stern, whose government report in 2006 warned of the catastrophic results of delaying climate change action, said the UK and France must work together to tackle climate change instead than discussing a “relatively insignificant” problem.

In comments to the Observer, the peer crusader said there was “a story of French and British leaders joining forces on climate change despite major political differences”, citing the strained relationship between the former incumbent president of the Élysée Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair after the war in Iraq.


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