On Thursday, France detained a British trawler off of Normandy and fined another, sparking a diplomatic row between the UK and Paris. The Prime Minister has now weighed in, saying the UK will be retaliating to the French police’s actions.
On route to Rome for the G20 summit, the Prime Minister attempted to soothe relations between the UK and France after the fishing row.
When asked what he will say to Emmanuel Macron, Mr Johnson said he would remind the French President the “ties that unite us, that bind us together, are far stronger than the turbulence that currently exists in the relationship”.
He added: “What I will also say is that there may be people on either side of the Channel that they think they have an interest in promoting disharmony between the UK and France and creating the impression of disharmony.
“I don’t think Emmanuel shares that perspective.”
However, the Prime Minister also said the UK “will do whatever is necessary” to protect its interests.
Mr Johnson said he was “puzzled about what was going on” with France’s detention of fishing boats, “and we fear there may be a breach of the trade and cooperation agreement”.
He then added: “We will stand by to take the appropriate action.”
When asked if the UK would back down on post-Brexit fishing licence requirements to ease tensions with France, Mr Johnson added “we will do whatever is necessary to ensure UK interests” are protected.
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Lord David Frost however threatened to retaliate in the escalating row with “practical responses”.
The Brexit minister told the EU’s Brexit negotiator Maroš Šefčovič that if France carried through with “unjustified” threats to disrupt fisheries and hauliers next week the UK would react “accordingly”, in both physical and legal ways.
A spokesman added: “The Government is accordingly considering the possibility, in those circumstances, of launching dispute settlement proceedings under the TCA, and of other practical responses, including implementing rigorous enforcement processes and checks on EU fishing activity in UK territorial waters, within the terms of the TCA.”
Environment minister George Eustice has told Sky News the UK has issued fishing licences to 1,700 vessels, including 750 French fishing boats, which amounts to 98 percent of applicants.
Only 55 vessels remain without a licence, despite the UK trying to help them with the data, as they could not prove they had fished in Jersey’s waters before Brexit.
France said that if the UK does not grant licences for 55 vessels by next Tuesday, it will block British ports, carry out security checks on British vessels, reinforce controls of lorries to and from the UK, reinforce customs and hygiene controls, and raise tariffs.
Some French ministers have also threatened to halt the supply of electricity to the Channel Islands, which are British dependencies but are close to the French coast.
According to The Guardian, two Royal Navy patrol vessels have been put in a state of “high readiness” to tackle potential port blockades by French fishing boats.
UK Government defence sources have said they were awaiting a distress call from Jersey over the fishing row.
Defence sources said there was no immediate sign of a request for help from Jersey, though it was acknowledged the situation could change.
The source added: “The intention is to calm the situation down, although ships remain ready if the situation were to suddenly escalate.”