Foreign Secretary tells France to 'withdraw their threats immediately' or else the UK will 'take action'
Liz Truss says the UK 'won't roll over', escalating the ongoing fishing row
Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, has warned the UK will not "rollover" in the face of "unwarranted threats" from France, as the post-Brexit fishing row escalates.
Last month, the UK denied dozens of permits to French fishing boats operating near Jersey.
In retaliation, France threatened to block British boats and cut power to the Channel Islands.
The row escalated after French authorities detained a Scottish-registered fishing boat, accusing it of fishing without a license.
Both sides of the channel have now set strict deadlines.
This morning (November 10), Truss told France that Britain will initiate legal action if the dispute isn't revolved within 48 hours.
Speaking to Sky News, Truss said: "The French have made completely unreasonable threats, including to the Channel Islands and to our fishing industry and they need to withdraw those threats.
“The French have behaved unfairly. It’s not within the terms of the trade deal and if someone behaves unfairly in a trade deal you’re entitled to take action against them and seek some compensatory measures and that is what we will do if the French don’t back down.”
Truss warned France to "stop threatening UK fishing vessels, stop threatening the Channel ports, and accept that we are entirely within our rights to allocate the fishing licences in line with the trade agreement, as we have done.”
Meanwhile President Macron, speaking to reporters last night in Rome, warned Britain had 24 hours to concede on the fishing row or France would impose sanctions.
President Macron and Prime Minister Boris Johnson were unable to meet a resolution at the G20 World Leaders summit.
The two leaders gave separate press conferences. Macron said: "I don’t want any escalation, but we must take things seriously".
The French President asked the UK to honour the commitments made in the UK-EU trade agreement signed earlier this year and to grant more fishing licences or France would stop British boats landing at their ports from November 2.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his press conference to criticise a letter sent by the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, to Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president in which Castex warned it “causes more damage to leave the EU than to stay in”.
The pair were unable to find a resolution during their 25-minute off camera meeting.
A No 10 spokesman said that it was “for the French to decide” if they wanted to de-escalate the row.
France said the "ball is in Britain's court".
A far cry from what was promised
Before January 1 2020, the UK was part of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, which allowed all European fishing fleets equal access to waters across the bloc.
Under the terms of the Brexit trade deal, fishing for EU boats in UK waters - and vice versa - is managed through a licensing system.
France has accused Britain of withholding licenses for French vessels. Britain swears it has validated 98 per cent of applications.
However, the devil is in the detail.
Many French vessels are unable to prove they were fishing in UK waters before Brexit and therefore don't have the paperwork to qualify for a license.
Another complication involves the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, which are British Crown Dependencies and therefore responsible for their own licensing.
The Channel Islands, a mere 14 miles from the French coast, haven't quite got their act together yet over issuing licenses.
British fish for British people
The row over fishing rights was one of the more prominent arguments during Brexit.
Vote Leave promised "British fish for British people", failing to realise trawlers need EU waters to fill their quotas.
As part of the post-Brexit trade agreement, Britain promised to honour equal licensing.
By not keeping up our side of the bargain, it may be our fishermen who end up suffering.