French fishermen block UK boats in post-Brexit protest

·2-min read
French fishermen block boats at St Malo  (REUTERS)
French fishermen block boats at St Malo (REUTERS)

French fisherman who claim they have been ‘humiliated’ by Britain over post-Brexit operating licences on Friday begun blockading UK ships.

Their boats lined the entrance to St Malo port from dawn on Friday as they stopped the British Normandy Trader getting into the Brittany port from Jersey.

The protesters are also set to target ferries arriving in Ouistreham and Calais, before using their vehicles to disrupt the access road to the Channel Tunnel.

“We’re hostage to politics,” said Pascal Lecler, one of the fishermen in St Malo. “It doesn’t make us happy to be here, but it can’t go on.”

Mr Lecler said some 150 French boats were still waiting for Britain to grant them licences to fish in British waters.

Gerard Romiti, Chairman of France’s powerfull National Fisheries Committee, said: “This is to demonstrate how professional fishermen come together in response to the UK’s provocative, contemptuous and humiliating attitude towards them.”

Friday’s blockades were due to last for up to two hours each, said Mr Romiti, who said they should be viewed as “warning shots”.

Responding to the action, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “We are disappointed by threats of protest activity.

“It will be a matter for the French to ensure that there are no illegal actions and that trade is not affected.”

Before Brexit, French fishermen had free rights to fish in UK waters under EU law and only had to apply to their own government for a licence.

But earlier this year the new Brexit Agreement came into force, meaning French fishermen now need to apply to the UK for a licence.

All vessels that fished in UK waters “for at least four years between 2012 and 201” should be granted the same level of access until at least 2026, when it will be up to the UK and France to negotiate new deals.

The UK is asking French boats to provide tracking and fishing quota data for those years to qualify for a permit.

The French have protested, saying smaller vessels under 12m do not collect this data and are being unfairly punished. They argue that the Brexit Agreement makes no mention of such data.

British environment minister George Eustice has previously described the threat of French blockades as “disappointing”, “disproportionate” and “[not] compatible with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement or wider international law”.

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