Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron plunged into an astonishing public spat over fishing rights in the Channel – with each rebuking each other’s governments after a half-hour meeting between them ended in bitter deadlock
France is set to trigger a crackdown on British boats as the fishing war between both countries escalates.
Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron plunged into an astonishing public spat over fishing rights in the Channel – with each rebuking each other’s governments after a half-hour meeting between them ended in bitter deadlock.
President Macron announced he will trigger retaliation measures on Tuesday if Mr Johnson refuses to grant more permits to French boats.
Those include blocking some British boats from French ports – and ramping up customs checks on British truckers entering France.
The extraordinary row will spark fears of a Christmas crisis for trade to the Continent after months of supply chain snarl-ups.
President Macron told reporters at the G20 summit in Rome: “The ball is in Britain’s court.
“If the British make no movement, the measures of November 2 will have to be put in place”.
He added he “hoped there would be a positive response tomorrow”.
Boris Johnson issued a public rebuke to the French government over the row.
He refused to budge, declaring: “The position is unchanged.”
And he said he was “puzzled” by a letter from French PM Jean Castex – who on Friday urged the EU to show that “leaving the Union is more damaging than remaining in it”.
He claimed the letter was “explicitly asking for Britain to be punished for leaving the EU”. Mr Johnson also complained to Mr Macron personally about the letter.
He told reporters: “I don’t believe that is compatible either with the spirit or the letter of the Withdrawal Agreement or the Trade and Co-Operation Agreement.”
France has been insisting it is not being granted enough permits to fish in British waters.
The row escalated last week when a British trawler was detained by French authorities.
Each side has accused the other of breaching the Brexit trade deal.
The UK is “actively considering” triggering a legal dispute if the French press ahead with retaliation on Tuesday.
It comes after a bizarre briefing war between the two sides earlier on Sunday.
French sources claimed Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson agreed to “work towards de-escalation” in talks at the G20 summit.
After a half-hour meeting with no aides, an Elysee Palace source said: “There is joint work to be done”.
But in an extraordinary slapdown, Downing Street said there was no agreement – and demanded Macron make the first move.
Earlier Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “It will be for the French to decide whether they want to step away from the threats they’ve made in recent days about breaching the Brexit agreement.
“That will be a matter for them.”
The Prime Minister later said: “We had a wide ranging and frank discussion as you would expect between long standing friends and very very close allies”.
The UK insisted it was not “targeting” any one country to reject fishing licences.
No10 said the UK granted 98% of licences to fishermen, who only need to prove they’ve fished in UK waters for one day per year in four out of the last five years.
But Mr Beaune said: “We do not lack just a few licences, but more than 40% of French detailed requests.
“For the EU as a whole, around 90% of the expected licences have been granted, but all the missing ones are French.”
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “The position we’re in is that the French government has made a series of threats about what they will do and they have imposed their own deadline.
“It is now up to the French government whether they wish to resile from that position.
“But our stance has not changed, which is that we will continue to work within the realms of the Brexit agreement.”
Asked if the situation was a “briefing war” Boris Johnson’s spokesman replied: “I’ll leave that to you to characterise.”