France Tackles Two British Fishing Boats Off Normandy Coast, Fishing Conflict Continues
France last night warned a British fishing boat that was fishing illegally off the coast of Le Havre. The ship was led to port, risking legal prosecution and confiscation of its catch. Another British fishing boat was fined. French sanctions against British fishermen have started earlier than expected.
“It is not a war between the French and the British, but tensions about fishing are now very high,” responds VRT correspondent Frank Renout from Paris. “The French have carried out checks in their territorial waters off the coast of Normandy. As a result, a British vessel was fishing illegally there and was therefore forced to divert to Le Havre. There, its catch could be confiscated.”
A second British fishing boat was also fined because the captain initially did not want to let the French coast guard on board. According to France, British boats do not have proper rights to fish in French waters as a result of Brexit. France previously threatened retaliation if 244 French fishermen did not receive permits from the British quickly.
“The action by the French is remarkable because the French checks on ships and trucks would not start until Tuesday,” explains Renout. “The underlying reason is that French fishermen are no longer all welcome in British waters and in the area around the Channel Islands, Jersey and Guernsey. France is angry about this because it has been agreed in the Brexit agreement that the French are allowed to fish there. As a sanction, Paris will therefore take stricter action against the British, and that has already started, earlier than we thought.”
The French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune believes that enough is enough. “If after ten months and a lot of technical discussions, 45 percent of the fishing permits are still not in order, then that is a political choice,” he sneered. Beaune thinks it is a shame but necessary that the French had to take such strict measures. France has also suggested limiting energy supplies to the Channel Islands.
UK Environment Secretary George Eustice called France’s actions “disappointing and disproportionate”. “The measures France is threatening to take are inconsistent with the trade agreement and international law. If France carries out the threats, we will respond appropriately,” he said.