French fisherman supports retaliation over fishing row
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The French national fisheries committee (CNPMEM) has vowed to stage protests at the tunnel, along with the ports of Calais, Saint-Malo and Ouistreham, in a move which will prove up the stakes in the increasingly bitter dispute. In a statement the organisation said the action, which will take place over the course of a few hours, was intended to be “symbolic and non-violent”.
However, any protests could have a major impact on cross-Channel trade, with Downing Street urged the French authorities to prevent disruption.
The committee described the protests as a “warning shot” that could lead to further action if the fishermen’s demands are not heeded.
The blockades are expected to hit Saint-Malo on Friday morning before moving on to Calais, the tunnel and finally Ouistreham.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said he was “disappointed” at plans to blockade the Channel Tunnel (Image: GETTY)
French President Emmanuel Macron (Image: GETTY)
The latest action comes after the French fishermen blockaded the port of St Helier in Jersey last May.
They are angry over not receiving more licences to fish in UK and Channel Islands waters under the terms of Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU – the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).
The fisherman’s committee chairman Gerard Romiti said the attitude of the British authorities was “provocative” and “humiliating”.
Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory minister and Brexit Party MEP (Image: GETTY)
He said: “We don’t want handouts, we just want our licences back.
“The UK must respect the post-Brexit deal. Too many fishermen are still in the dark.”
The latest flare-up in the dispute comes amid tensions between London and Paris over a range of issues, with French President Emmanuel Macron having vowed to back French fishermen to the hilt.
Following the sinking of a migrant boat in the Channel on Wednesday with the loss of 27 lives, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the French to do more to stem the flow of people attempting the hazardous crossing.
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Lord David Frost, the Brexit minister, speaking to reporters in Brussels (Image: GETTY)
Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president (Image: GETTY)
It also coincides with the latest meeting between Brexit Minister Lord Frost and the European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic.
The talks are due to focus on the Northern Ireland Protocol, although the subject of fishing licences may also come up.
The commission has stepped up pressure on the UK in the fishing dispute, setting a December 10 deadline to resolve the row.
The No 10 spokesman said the Government continued to engage with the commission on the subject.
European dependence on UK waters (Image: Express)
He said the UK had issued almost 1,700 licences to EU boats where they could provide evidence of past fishing activity in UK waters in line with the terms of the TCA.
He added: “We are disappointed by threats of protest activity.
“It is obviously a matter for the French to ensure that there are no illegal actions and that trade is not affected but we continue to monitor the situation closely. “
He added: “We continue to abide by the TCA and work with fishermen if they have any further evidence they wish to submit as part of their application.
Calais, the French port, will also be blockaded (Image: GETTY)
“We will continue to give licences where that evidence can be met.”
Speaking on Thursday, former Tory minister and ex-Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe told Express.co.uk Mr Johnson needed to take a firm line if French fishermen sought to take matters into their own hands.
She said: “I think we should take a very tough line and say, okay, if this is the way you’re going to be, we will reduce the number of licences because of the way your men are behaving.
“That would mean they could not legally fish in our waters, which would severely impact their income, and I would imagine therefore they would be putting pressure on their government.”