France has threatened to disrupt trade with Britain and step up customs checks unless more licences are granted to French fishermen to operate in UK waters.
The latest spat in the bitter row between the neighbours was sparked by licensing procedures for EU fishing boats wanting to operate in waters around Britain and the Channel Islands after Brexit.
The new measures would include ‘systematic customs and sanitary checks on products brought to France and a ban on landing seafood,’ government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters.
France has also threatened to cut off electricity as it accused Britain of ‘wiping its shoes on the Brexit deal’.
The EU nation has been incensed by the rejection of dozens of French boats by Britain, as well as by the self-governing Channels islands of Jersey and Guernsey, which depend on London for defence and foreign affairs.
French customs checks have the potential to seriously slow down imports and exports.
France has threatened to disrupt trade with Britain and step up customs checks unless more licences are granted to French fishermen to operate in UK waters (pictured: French fishermen in Boulogne-sur-Mer
British fishermen are also highly dependent on French ports where much of their catch is landed and processed.
Attal claimed France was missing ‘almost 50 percent of the licenses that we have a right to’ under the deal on fishing agreed between Britain and the European Union in December last year.
France ‘will not let Britain wipe its shoes on the Brexit deal,’ he added.
The flare-up over fishing is the latest in a series of disagreements between the two neighbours that have plunged diplomatic relations to their lowest in decades.
As well as tensions over migration, Paris was left outraged in September after Britain secretly negotiated a deal to supply nuclear submarines to Australia – at the expense of French ones which had been agreed in 2016.
French Europe Minister Clement Beaune said that the measures could be ratcheted up over time.
The new measures would include ‘systematic customs and sanitary checks on products brought to France and a ban on landing seafood,’ government spokesman Gabriel Attal (pictured) told reporters
‘It’s a first series of measures. Either this first series of measures leads to a dialogue about the licences, then that’s good,’ he told a hearing in the senate.
‘Or these measures do not lead to the deal being implemented and we will take other measures, including on the supply of electricity for example,’ he added, echoing previous French threats to reduce electricity supplies to Jersey.
Under the post-Brexit deal on fishing, EU fishermen wishing to access British seas had to apply for new licences which would be granted providing they could prove that they had worked in British waters in previous years.
Britain has granted nearly 1,700 licences to EU boats to fish in waters classed as being part of its exclusive economic zone, meaning those 12-200 nautical miles from the coast.
The tension is over licences to operate in Britain’s fish-rich territorial waters, which lie 6-12 nautical miles from the coast, as well as the waters close to Jersey.
London has issued 100 licences to French boats for its territorial waters, while 75 have been rejected, according to figures from the beginning of October.
For Jersey, 111 permanent licences and 31 provisional licences have been issued, while 75 boats have been rejected.
MailOnline has contacted HMRC for comment.
Thierry Breton has branded Brexit a ‘catastrophe’ for Britain and blamed it for the UK’s empty supermarket shelves, petrol crisis and truck driver shortage
It comes after Thierry Breton, the French politician who is also the European Commission’s internal market commissioner, said that Brexit was a ‘real drama’ for the UK.
‘Look at what is happening on the supermarket shelves, look at what is happening at the petrol pumps, look at what is happening with the shortage of nurses and doctors, look at what is happening with the shortage of truck drivers, look at what is happening in the construction sector,’ Breton told BFM TV.
‘What is currently happening is a real drama.’
Breton has frequently criticised the UK’s decision to leave the EU – last month warning Brexit was ‘supposed to boost Britain’s global standing’ but saying it has done ‘pretty much the opposite’.
The EU Commissioner for the Internal Market has also waded into Brexit rows over fishing rights, vaccine production and blasted the UK for its role in a submarine deal with Australia.
People wait in a queue to fill up with petrol at Asda in Greenwich, South East London, as Britain experiences a fuel crisis
Supermarket shelves in the UK are left empty amid ongoing shortages as a result of a fuel crisis and truck driver shortage
‘Consider that after they said they could regain prosperity, which meant to some extent that every EU national would be kicked out – at least a large part of them – well now they need to come back, because nurses are missing.
‘There’s 100,000 truck drivers missing … It is what it is and we deplore it,’ he added.
Breton also said the UK had shown ‘bad faith’ in dealing with fishing rights but said the EU was ‘used to this game now’.
‘200 permits have been granted, so it’s moving forward,’ he added.
France and ten other EU members have called for a common front against Britain over its handling of a row with Paris over post-Brexit fishing licences in its waters. Pictured: French fishermen empty a fishing net in the North Sea
In another of Breton’s foray’s in the Brexit rows in April, the EU’s internal market commissioner said ‘zero’ AstraZeneca jabs made on the continent would be shipped across the Channel until the company fulfilled its commitments to Europe.
He said ‘there is nothing to negotiate’ between the EU and the UK.
It came after he boasted over blocking AstraZeneca doses from leaving Europe, claimed the continent had ‘plenty of vaccines available’ and said the EU would be able to offer one to every adult before the end of summer.
Mr Breton told the FT at the time that EU-made doses must be reserved for the bloc to make up for the shortfall, adding: ‘If [AstraZeneca] does more, we don’t have any issue, but as long as it doesn’t deliver its commitment to us, the doses stay in Europe – except for Covax.’
UK Government sources at the time described his comments as ‘disappointing’ and accused him of ‘not respecting lawful contracts’.
They claimed the only way to get through the pandemic was to find a ‘win-win’.
Breton’s comments forced the EU’s former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to try to calm cross-Channel tensions by urging his colleagues to end the vaccine war.
In another of Breton’s foray’s in the Brexit rows in April, the EU’s internal market commissioner said ‘zero’ AstraZeneca jabs made on the continent would be shipped across the Channel until the company fulfilled its commitments to Europe
While in September, Breton also warned transatlantic ties were ‘broken’ after Australia scrapped a $40 billion submarine deal with France and negotiated a new agreement with Britain and the US.
Breton said many politicians and citizens in Europe shared a ‘growing feeling … that something is broken in our transatlantic relations’ after a series of surprises from the Biden administration in recent months.
‘This feeling is unfortunately increasing,’ he told reporters in Washington at the time. ‘It’s not right to think it is just because of what happened last week. It’s much broader than that.’