Original title: The Anglo-French “fishing war” is about to start a full-scale trade war?Source: Reference News Network
Reference News Network reported on October 28 (by Feng Kang)
The fierce quarrel between Britain and France, the old enemies, over the issue of fishing rights after Brexit has escalated recently, and the cloud of a full-scale trade war has shrouded over the English Channel.
According to British and French media reports, France threatened on the 27th that if more French fishing boats are not allowed to enter British waters to fish, it will impose trade sanctions on Britain from next week. At the same time, France is also considering restricting retaliatory measures against Britain’s electricity supply.
Escalation of disputes
In order to retaliate against the British government for not issuing more permits for French trawlers to enter British waters, the French government will take retaliatory measures starting from November 2. The French government issued a statement on the 27th that these measures include a ban on all British seafood imports, systematic customs and sanitation inspections on British goods exported to the European Union through French ports, and intensified inspections on trucks travelling to and from the UK. Customs inspection, which is very likely to cause delays in transportation.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attar said that the French side is still planning a second round of retaliatory measures, which involve power supply to the UK. French government officials had previously hinted that they would completely cut off the electricity supply to the British island of Jersey, but now they are considering raising electricity prices.
According to Reuters, French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clement Bonnet, said at a hearing in the French Parliament that if the situation regarding fishing permits has not improved, France will further strengthen border inspections of British goods. He said: “It is not our purpose to impose these checks, our purpose is a permit.”
The British government’s Brexit Secretary David Frost issued a government statement on Twitter in response to Bona, saying that “the French threat is disappointing and disproportionate. Expectations”. The statement also warned that London will retaliate against any actions by France with an “appropriate and corrected response”.
Seizure of fishing boats
The European Commission and the United Kingdom have started negotiations on fishing rights this week. During the negotiations, France stepped up surveillance operations. French Maritime Affairs Minister Anneque Girardin stated that the French maritime police carried out several inspections of fishing boats near the port of Le Havre in northern France overnight.
According to Reuters and Agence France-Presse reports, on the evening of the 27th, the French maritime police fined two British fishing boats operating there and detained one of the fishing boats operating without a license.
Girardin said on Twitter that inspections of British fishing boats are standard actions during the scallop fishing season. But she said that the inspections were carried out “in the context of the UK and the European Commission discussing the issue of fishing licenses and with the tightening of controls on the English Channel.”
Girardin also tweeted on the 28th that the undocumented British fishing boat had been taken to the port of Le Havre by the French maritime police and handed over to the French authorities for processing. The captain of the ship is at risk of legal proceedings and confiscation of the catch.
“Patience is exhausted”
Why is France so angry? France believes that under the Brexit agreement, 175 French fishing boats have the right to fish in waters between 6 and 12 nautical miles from the British coast, but the UK has only issued 100 permits. Paris also stated that French trawlers are entitled to 216 permits to fish around Jersey, but Britain only provided 105.
“The matter is very clear. We have already said that we will not let the British taint the Brexit agreement,” Atal said. “The (French) government has put out a list of permits that we are entitled to.”
“We have been working with the British and we have provided them with all the data, all the documents and all the information they request to support these permit applications. But we see today that among the permits we are entitled to Half of it is missing. This situation is unacceptable and our patience has been exhausted.”
Attar stated that Paris will “implement systematic customs and sanitation inspections on British products arriving in French ports, prohibit seafood products from disembarking, and inspect trucks.”
The French government’s statement stated that British seafood will be banned from landing at “designated ports.” Officials said that this is actually a total ban.
According to a report on the website of the British House of Commons, France is the largest export market for British fisheries in 2019, with exports reaching 561.1 million pounds, accounting for 27.7% of the total British exports.
Attar said a more detailed list of retaliations will be announced this weekend. He also stated that the French authorities hope that the British counterparts will make concessions and issue more permits before the French side’s first retaliatory action is implemented.
British and French diplomatic relations have fallen to their lowest point in decades due to a series of recent differences, and the outbreak of the fishery issue is the latest of them.
The two countries are already in tension over immigration. Just last month, Britain helped facilitate a three-nation agreement to provide Australia with US nuclear submarine technology, which caused Canberra to cancel the submarine purchase agreement it had previously reached with France, making Paris angry.
French President Macron had hoped that the European Union would support his action to obtain more licenses for French fishing boats, but the European Union seemed reluctant to conflict with Britain on this issue, which forced France to take “national measures” to support its fishermen.
However, the measures planned by the French government are not the most ruthless. If French fishermen take measures on their own, the conflict between the two countries may escalate.
In the past few years, disputes between British and French fishermen have been “out of control” from time to time. In 2018, fishermen threw stones and smoke bombs at each other. In June of this year, angry French fishermen organized a large number of fishing boats to sail to the main port of Jersey, England to stage a demonstration, forcing Britain to send two naval patrol boats there. British fishermen threatened that if French fishing boats “blocked” the port, it would constitute an “act of war.”
According to the British “Times” report, Olivier LePret, chairman of the Northern France Fisheries Committee, said that its committee members are considering blocking the export of French products to the UK through the Calais Ferry Port and the Channel Tunnel. This move will definitely affect the already tight supply chain in the UK.