THE fish wars dramatically escalated today as Downing Street furiously slapped down French claims a deal had been done to “de-escalate” tensions and call a truce.
In extraordinary developments, Emmanuel Macron’s team had claimed he and Boris Johnson had both agreed to step back from the brink after meeting for crunch talks at the G20 summit in Rome.
But just minutes later Number 10 shot down the claims – insisting no deal had been reached.
Instead they furiously tore into Paris for threatening to blockade British ports, mire British boats in a mountain of red tape and cut energy supplies to Jersey unless their demands for endless fishing licences are adhered to.
In a bitter war of words broke out, the PM’s spokesman said: “The de-escalation will have to come from the French who have threatened to breach the Brexit deal.”
France claims their fishermen have not been granted licences they should have been to allow them to fish in UK waters.
In a sensational diplomatic row, Paris has threatened to launch a triple whammy attack on Britain’s interests on Tuesday unless the UK caves and hands over more permits.
But Downing Street has come out swinging against the claims, insisting that all boats who can prove they have historically fished in UK waters have been given the permits.
The PM’s spokesman insisted Britain is not “targeting” France in any way.
He added: “We are enacting the Brexit agreement as it is written down.
“We are granting fishing licences when evidence presented.
“You saw the PM’s interviews – he is not seeking to escalate this. He is focused on resolving the protocol.”
He said Britain would “welcome” moves by France to de-escalate but added it was a question for the French government as to whether they will or not.
And he warned that Britain could trigger the dispute mechanism in the Brexit deal – the opening salvo in what could end up in a full-blown trade war between the two usual allies – if they press the nuclear button and go ahead with their threat on Tuesday.
He warned: “We stand ready to respond should they proceed with breaking the Brexit agreement.”
‘BIGGER FISH TO FRY’
It comes after the PM threatened to take legal action over the fishing row.
As tensions mounted, Brexit minister Lord Frost said the UK government was “actively considering” starting legal proceedings and warned the EU that if France carries out its threats it would be “in breach of its obligations” under the post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.
In a series of tweets, the Conservative peer rallied against comments made by French PM Jean Castex in a letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, that the UK should be shown “it causes more damage to leave the EU than to stay in”.
Mr Johnson previously warned Macron he’s got “bigger fish to fry” during the G20 summit.
Asked by The i about meeting the French leader again, Mr Johnson said: “It’s about fish rather than sausages this time, I don’t know if that’s an improvement.
“Actually, there are bigger fish to fry, everybody knows that. Am I worried about that?
“The answer is no.”