French fishermen’s new threat to Christmas: Militants vow to hit UK economy amid fears of port blockades over post-Brexit licences row
- Militant French fishing barons vowed last night to wreck Britain’s economy as skippers plotted a nationwide protest in a post-Brexit row over licences.
- The chairman of the powerful northern France fisheries committee, made the threat
- He has previously threatened that disgruntled French fishermen could block the port of Calais
Militant French fishing barons vowed last night to wreck Britain’s economy as skippers plotted a nationwide protest in a post-Brexit row over licences.
He has previously threatened that disgruntled French fishermen could block the port of Calais and the Channel Tunnel in the run-up to Christmas, halting the flow of goods from the Continent.
‘It is out of the question to do anything that will harm the French economy,’ Mr Lepretre said in Boulogne-sur-Mer last night. ‘We will disrupt British interests.
‘Let them give us the licences. Otherwise, we will cut them off.’
Olivier Lepretre (pictured), the chairman of the powerful northern France fisheries committee, made the threat after being emboldened by late-night talks with president Emmanuel Macron
Mr Lepretre spent Sunday evening on the phone to Mr Macron before making his latest threats last night. Mr Macron faces re-election in April, and he is under pressure to deliver the fishing licences before the presidential vote.
He has accused Britain of breaching the Brexit deal by withholding as many as 150 licences from French fishermen, a number disputed by Britain.
French Europe minister Clement Beaune last night said the row was ‘not taken seriously enough’ by the European Commission and that Paris wanted it to be resolved by Christmas.
But Mr Beaune said France would consider going it alone to punish Britain if the dispute is not solved, with threats including tighter checks and a ban on British trawlers landing catches in French ports.
‘We still have all options on the table… we would prefer to have it on the EU level but if nothing happens at the EU level we will take French measures. But I don’t want to go into that.’
French Europe minister Clement Beaune last night said the row was ‘not taken seriously enough’ by the European Commission and that Paris wanted it to be resolved by Christmas. Pictured: French fisherman Sebastien carries boxes of scallops aboard the trawler Le Chant des Sirene
France has backed down from similar threats in the past, scrapping a November 2 deadline to allow more time for talks.
Last month a private letter from French prime minister Jean Castex to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen demanded Eurocrats show ‘it is more damaging to leave the Union than to remain in it’. It was mistakenly leaked on social media by France’s gaffe-prone minister of the sea, Annick Girardin.
After Brexit, French fishermen need permission from the British Government or the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey to fish in certain areas.
The UK says many of the rejected trawlers have failed to provide evidence that they had fished British waters before the UK’s referendum on leaving the EU.
Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘France seems to be determined to do anything to thumb its nose at the United Kingdom. This is all tied up with the French election. The idea that they have some right to punish Great Britain and Northern Ireland for having the temerity to leave the EU is amazing.
‘The French are bullies. How do you deal with bullies? You stand up to them and they run away.
‘The Government must stand up to them.’
A UK Government source said: ‘Our position on licensing remains unchanged.’