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Boris Johnson told Friday how he is “puzzled” at French threats to cause border disruption in the bust-up over fishing licences.
Speaking to reporters as he flew to a G20 summit in Rome, he said: "I think on the particular issues we have, we are puzzled about what’s going on. We fear that there may be a breach in terms of the trade cooperation agreement implicit in what’s happening and some of the things that are being said, and obviously we will standby to take the appropriate action.”
A row over fishing rights has escalated this week after French authorities accused a Scottish-registered scallop dredger of fishing without a licence.
The captain of the Cornelis Gert Jan vessel, understood to be an Irish national, was detained in Le Havre and he has been told to face a court hearing in August next year.
French authorities allege the Cornelis Gert Jan did not have a licence - a claim the boat’s owner Macduff Shellfish vehemently denies. The EU said UK authorities withdrew the licence on March 1.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss took the rare step of ordering an allied nation’s envoy to be summoned as she called Catherine Colonna, French ambassador to the UK, to the Foreign Office on Friday afternoon to challenge her over France’s intentions.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the minister “expressed concern” to the ambassador over “unjustified measures announced by France earlier this week” and, like the Prime Minister, warned of a possible breach of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).
However, speaking to reporters Mr Johnson also stressed: “France is one of our best, oldest, closest allies, friends and partners.The ties that unite us and bind us together are far stronger than the turbulence that currently exists in the relationship. That’s what I’m going to say to Emmanuel who’s a friend I’ve known for many years.
"There may be people on either side of the Channel who may think that they have an interest in somehow creating disharmony between the UK and France, creating the impression of disharmony between the UK and France, but I don’t think Emmanuel (Macron) shares that perspective personally at all. So I will be making that point.”
If the French cause border disruption, he emphasised: “We will do whatever is necessary to ensure UK interests."