‘They need us’: French minister says Paris will ‘hold firm’ in fishing dispute as he blasts ‘failed Brexit’

By Matt Mathers
Reuters

France will “hold firm” in a dispute with Britain over fishing licences, a minister has said as he launched a stinging attack on what he described as the UK's failed Brexit.

London and Paris are embroiled in a war of words after the UK government last month granted just 12 licences to small French boats to fish in British coastal waters.

Scores of requests had been made. UK government officials defended the decision, saying it was a “reasonable” approach and fully in line with the UK’s commitments set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

But the move infuriated Paris, with one government minister accusing the UK of taking French fishing “hostage” for its own “political ends”.

In a dramatic escalation of tensions, Clement Beaune, France’s European affairs minister, vowed that Paris will “hold firm” and goaded the UK over its ongoing supply chain crisis.

“The Brits need us to sell their products,” he said. “They failed on Brexit. It was a bad choice. Threatening us, threatening our fishermen, will not settle their supply of turkey at Christmas,” he added.

Earlier this week, prime minister Jean Castex said France was ready to review bilateral cooperation with Britain if London continues to ignore the agreement reached over fishing rights in its post-Brexit trading relationship with the EU.

Paris has threatened retaliatory measures and fishermen have warned they could block the northern port of Calais and Channel Tunnel rail link, both major transit points for trade between Britain and continental Europe if London does not grant more fishing licences in the next 17 days.

Earlier this week, Olivier Lepretre, chief of the powerful northern France fisheries committee, said fishermen could cause havoc with cross-Channel trade.

“If negotiating fails, we will stop all French and European products reaching the UK, and we will stop all British products reaching Europe," he told the Daily Mail.

“Unless Boris backs down, the Brits will not have so many nice things to eat this Christmas. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”


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