French fishing industry representatives have threatened to block the port of Calais and stop exports to the UK in the run-up to Christmas, in the escalating dispute over fishing rights. French fishermen say they feel deceived by the UK Government for failing to grant them enough post-Brexit fishing licences to access British waters. Speaking to GB News, Mr Gallois said: “I think it’s totally counterproductive and irresponsible because we have many French interests and exchanges with the UK.
“I think yes, there is an issue on the deal but the UK is abiding by the deal and France shouldn’t blame the UK, but the EU because it’s the EU who negotiated the deal.
“The issue for France is only boats that have been fishing between 2012 and 2016 can fish but you have many, many small boats from France which don’t have a recording system and cannot prove they were fishing.
“The UK is just playing by the deal but the deal was badly negotiated by Michel Barnier.
“The French should blame Barnier and the EU.”
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French fury was sparked after the Government in London announced last month that it had approved just 12 of the 47 applications it had received from French small boats.
Those denied licences were unable to prove a track record of fishing activity in the six-to-12 nautical mile zone in the years before the UK’s departure from the EU, according to a UK Government spokesman.
But the Hauts-de-France fishing committee said the French have worked “meticulously” to provide that evidence, calling the British allocation an “unacceptable decision” on Tuesday.
Mr Lepretre’s threat came a week after he held talks with French maritime minister Annick Girardin, who has asked the European Commission for possible retaliatory measures.
France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune said the country would “take European or national measures to exert pressure on the UK”, and hinted that Britain’s imported energy supply could be disrupted in retaliation for a lack of access to UK waters.
The UK’s Brexit minister, Lord Frost, said it was “unreasonable” to suggest the UK was acting in bad faith when it came to allocating post-Brexit fishing licences to French boats, accusing France of being disingenuous over the UK’s position on fishing access.
“We have been extremely generous and the French, focusing in on a small category of boats and claiming we have behaved unreasonably, I think is not really a fair reflection of the efforts we have made,” he told a Conservative Party conference fringe event on Tuesday.
“The Government has this year issued a large number of licences to EU vessels seeking to fish in our exclusive economic zone (12-200 nautical mile zone) and our territorial sea (six-12 nautical mile zone),” a UK Government spokesman told the PA news agency.
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The spokesman added that the approach had been “fully in line” with the UK’s commitments in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) agreed as part of the Brexit divorce deal.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the UK will be “calm but resolute” in the row.
“Of course, what the French need to adjust to is the new reality as we have left the EU, we have got a free trade deal – it includes scope on fishing but they can’t expect to have the kind of quotas they had previously, unlimited access,” he told TalkRadio on Wednesday.
The cross-Channel tensions over fishing have been long-running, with earlier rows leading to Navy ships being scrambled to Jersey amid concerns of a blockade of the island.