Boris Johnson vows to take action as fishing row with Macron escalates

30 October 2021, 00:38 | Updated: 30 October 2021, 08:37

Friction between France and the UK continues over fishing sanctions
Friction between France and the UK continues over fishing sanctions. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Boris Johnson has vowed to take "appropriate action" amid growing tensions between France and the UK over fishing rights.

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The dispute over fishing rights escalated this week after French authorities accused a Scottish-registered scallop dredger of fishing without a licence.

Mr Johnson said he was "puzzled about what is going on" and claimed Paris's behaviour could be in contravention of the UK's Brexit deal with the European Union.

The country threatened to block British boats from some ports and tighten checks on vessels if the issue over a lack of licences for small French boats to fish in British waters was not resolved by Tuesday.

Read more: Trawler captain charged and crew told 'stay on board for own safety'

It comes as French leader Emmanuel Macron said the UK's "credibility" was at stake over the disagreement in an interview with the Financial Times.

He told the newspaper: "When you spend years negotiating a treaty and then a few months later you do the opposite of what was decided on the aspects that suit you the least, it is not a big sign of your credibility."

Read more: France and 10 other EU nations join forces against UK amid Brexit fishing feud

However, speaking to reporters on the flight to the G20 in Rome, Mr Johnson urged British fishermen to "be confident about going about their lawful business" as he promised action against any infringement.

"We are puzzled about what is going on," said Mr Johnson.

"We fear there may be a breach of the terms of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement implicit in what's happening... and obviously we will stand by to take the appropriate action.

"We will do whatever is necessary to ensure UK interests.

"British fishermen should be confident in going about their lawful business and they should be encouraged to continue fishing in accordance with the agreement. Any infraction is something we would need to respond to."

Read more: Eustice: France has made 'extraordinary threats' in row over post-Brexit fishing rights

His comments came after Brexit Minister Lord Frost warned of "rigorous" checks on EU vessels if France does not back down.

Lord Frost met European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic for long-scheduled talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol in London on Monday, but the pair also discussed the fishing row.

The Conservative peer raised the threats by France to "disrupt UK fisheries and wider trade, to threaten energy supplies", before introducing the prospect of "implementing rigorous enforcement processes and checks on EU fishing activity in UK territorial waters".

Mr Sefcovic "encouraged the UK to intensify discussions with the European Commission and France in order to swiftly resolve the issue of pending fishing licences", an EU statement said.

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