(Alliance News) – French fishermen will block ferry traffic into three Channel ports and the movement of goods through the rail tunnel between France and the UK on Friday in protest over post-Brexit fishing rights, a union said.

Describing the action as a “warning shot”, French national fisheries committee chairman Gerard Romiti said ferry traffic would be blocked at the ports of Saint-Malo, Ouistreham and Calais as well as freight traffic into the Channel Tunnel for several hours.

The months-long dispute between Britain and France over the number of licences for UK waters handed to French vessels remains unresolved and has threatened to turn into a full-scale trade war.

“We don’t want handouts, we just want our licenses back. The UK must abide by the post-Brexit deal. Too many fishermen are still in the dark,” said Romiti.

“The patience of professionals has limits. We hope this warning shot will be heard,” he said, refusing to rule out further actions in the future.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “disappointed by threats of protest activity”, adding that it was “a matter for the French to ensure that there are no illegal actions and that trade is not affected.” 

Britain has been struggling with major supply problems due to post-Brexit trade disruption and a lack of qualified truck drivers, resulting in fuel shortages and worries about shortages at Christmas.

The UK is highly dependent on French ports, particularly for fresh food imports, and any extended blockade would have the potential to cause significant costs.

The action by French fishermen comes with relations between the two neighbours at their lowest point in decades and a day after a dinghy carrying migrants sank in the Channel, claiming 27 lives.

Under a deal agreed by Britain and the EU late last year, European fishing vessels can continue to ply UK waters if they apply for new licences and can prove they operated there in the past.

But Paris says dozens of French boats have had their applications to fish the UK’s rich waters rejected, an assessment strongly contested by London.

France also accuses authorities on Jersey, a self-governing Channel island that depends on Britain for defence, of obstructing its fishermen.

The total volumes affected are tiny in terms of overall France-UK bilateral trade.

But the issue is politically sensitive and has contributed to growing post-Brexit tensions between Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, whose relationship was strained again by Wednesday’s migrant disaster in the Channel.

In late October, France threatened to ban British fishing boats from unloading their catches at French ports and to subject all British imports to inspections.

Tensions even spiralled into a brief naval standoff in May, when dozens of French trawlers massed in front of Jersey’s Saint Helier harbour.

Macron has said France would hold off imposing the measures to give dialogue a chance, but French officials have insisted that all options remain on the table.

Talks between France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune and Britain’s Brexit minister David Frost have yet to yield a breakthrough.

source: AFP

Copyright 2021 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.