UK threatens more controls on EU fishing vessels amid deepening dispute with France

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Britain warned on Friday that it could implement more controls on European Union fishing vessels if France follows through on its threat to take retaliatory action in a deepening dispute over post-Brexit access rights.

The UK would consider “initiating dispute resolution procedures” and “other practical responses, including the implementation of rigorous enforcement processes and controls of EU fishing activity in UK territorial waters,” a government spokesman said.

London summoned the French ambassador on Thursday to explain “threats” made by post-Brexit fishing rights, hours after French Prime Minister Jean Castex offered to open talks to resolve the increasingly bitter dispute.

The two parties disagree on the licensing rules for EU ships that want to operate in waters around Britain and the Channel Islands.

France is outraged by the rejection of some of its ships by Britain and the autonomous islands of Jersey and Guernsey, which depend on London for defense and foreign affairs.

Paris warned of retaliatory measures next week if licenses are not issued, including long-standing controls on all goods and a ban on UK ships landing seafood in French ports.

French authorities also fined two British boats fishing for scallops during checks on Wednesday, with one of them detained in Le Havre.

British Minister David Frost raised London’s concerns to EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic on Friday during talks on the implementation in Northern Ireland of the Brexit deal agreed last year.

Frost “expressed to the vice president our concerns about the unjustified measures announced by France earlier this week to disrupt UK fishing and trade in general, to threaten energy supplies,” the government said.

If the actions went as planned on November 2, Britain said the EU would be in breach of the broad Brexit deal.

“Consequently, the government is considering the possibility, in these circumstances, of initiating a dispute resolution procedure,” he added.

French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin dismissed British claims that 98 percent of access requests from EU vessels had been approved, saying the true figure was 90 percent.

“And all the unlicensed are French, except one or two Belgians,” he said.

Meanwhile, the French Minister for Europe, Clement Beaune, said his country had to use “the language of force” because “that is the only language that this British government understands.”

He said a second round of retaliation could follow if no progress is made, including increases in the price of electricity for Jersey and other Channel Islands taking power from France.


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