Liz Truss gave Emmanuel Macron a stinging reprimand today, demanding that he “stop” threatening the UK over the bitter fishing lawsuit.
The Foreign Secretary rejected the deadline set tomorrow by the French President for licensing small boats for British waters.
Instead, she insisted that Paris was pressed for time as the government was ready to take action on post-Brexit violations of the trade deal.
Ms Truss also risked sparking the dispute when Mr Macron attended the COP26 summit in Glasgow, suggesting that he is merely attacking the UK in hopes that it will help his re-election chances.
French officials have warned that starting tomorrow they will be banning British fishing boats from some ports and tightening customs controls on trucks entering the country with British goods unless their small boats are given more licenses to fish in British.
Other threats included “slowing down” customs and even higher tariffs on energy bills in Jersey. However, the number of boats receiving permits has increased, with the UK stressing that those with a pre-Brexit history of fishing in waters may still be permitted.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (pictured at COP today) rejected the deadline set by tomorrow’s French President for licenses for additional small boats for British waters
Emmanuel Macron (picture on the left at the G20) has insisted that Boris Johnson (picture on the right at today’s COP summit) has until tomorrow to give in in the dispute over fishing rights
There are fears that the fishing rod could overshadow the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Mr Johnson welcomed the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, this morning
The British trawler Cornelis Gert Jan was last week in the port of Le Havre. seized by French authorities
When asked if France and the UK had come to an agreement, Ms. Truss told Sky News: “The deal didn’t go through, the French have made totally unreasonable threats, including to the Channel Islands and our fishing industry, and they must do these Withdraw threats or we will use the mechanisms of our trade agreement with the EU to take action. “
She said the move would take the form of using the dispute settlement mechanism under the post-Brexit trade agreement to seek “compensatory measures”.
“We will do that if the French don’t give in,” she added.
“Stop threatening British fishing vessels, stop threatening the Channel ports and accept that we are fully within our right to license fishing in accordance with the trade agreement.”
She said she would “absolutely” take legal action in the coming days if France does not give in to threats and said: “This issue needs to be resolved in the next 48 hours.”
She added, “We will not just turn around in the face of these threats.”
Ms. Truss said Mr. Macron could make “unreasonable threats” about the upcoming elections.
“You could say there are elections in France,” she said.
On a day of the extraordinary briefing when Mr Macron and Boris Johnson were attending the G20 summit in Rome, the French Prime Minister insisted that “the ball is with Britain” and that reprisals should be initiated.
On one day of the extraordinary briefing, Paris initially claimed that Mr Johnson and Mr Macron had reached an agreement on de-escalation on the sidelines in 30-minute conversations.
There were no officers or cameras present when the couple tried to communicate one-on-one.
However, this version was rejected by Mr Johnson, who stressed that he saw Mr Macron as a “friend” but that they had a “full and open” discussion. “For fish, I have to tell you the position is unchanged,” he said.
Mr Johnson said he was “confused” by a letter from French Prime Minister Jean Castex to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in which Mr Castex said after some translations that Britain should be shown “it is causing more damage, leaving the EU than staying inside ‘.
Speaking at a G20 press conference, Mr Johnson said, “Regarding fish, I have to tell you that the position is unchanged. And I’m just saying this for the record. I have to say I was confused when I read a letter from the French Prime Minister expressly asking for the UK to be punished for leaving the EU.
“I just have to tell everyone that I do not consider this to be compatible with the spirit or the wording of the Withdrawal Agreement or the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and that is probably all I will say about it.”
But Macron said, “The ball is with Britain …” If the British don’t move, action must be taken by November 2nd. “
Earlier, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said it was up to France to decide whether to withdraw the threats.
“We are certainly ready to react if you break the Brexit agreement,” said the spokesman.
A French adviser told Reuters after the talks: “The aim of both the President and the Prime Minister was to work towards de-escalation.”
French sources told AFP that the two sides had agreed on “operational measures” to take the heat out of the dispute in the coming days.
What is the fishing ruin between Great Britain and France about?
– How did Brexit spark the fishing feud?
When the UK left the EU, it also left the Common Fisheries Policy, which since 1970 has allowed members of the bloc to access all European waters outside of the first 12 nautical miles of each country’s coastline.
The Brexit deal set out how EU boats could continue to fish in UK waters, but UK fishermen would get a greater share of the catch from those domestic waters.
The bulk of the share will be transferred to the UK this year and annual negotiations on the future allocation of the catch will take place.
– Why did this ignite tensions with France?
The introduction of the post-Brexit agreements has sparked a dispute with Paris accusing the UK of failing to allow every eligible French boat to fish in UK waters.
But the UK insists it follows the terms of the Brexit deal, which requires trawlers to provide historical GPS data to prove they worked in those waters before Brexit.
Some ships were unable to provide this data which resulted in their license applications being rejected.
The government insisted that 98 percent of all EU fishing license applications were approved, but France believes this is falling short.
– What is France threatening with?
French ministers have warned that if the dispute over the fishing license is not resolved by Tuesday next week, it will block British boats from some French ports and tighten controls on ships operating between France and the UK.
France’s European Minister Clement Beaune told the French television channel CNews: “We have been extremely patient. Our fishermen have been extremely responsible. And so it will be over from November 2nd. We’ll start a dialogue if the British want to, but we’re taking retaliatory measures. ‘
– How did the UK react?
Environment Minister George Eustice said the French threats could violate the terms of the Brexit deal and EU law.
He warned that the UK would respond in an “appropriate and calibrated” manner if carried out.
The British government calls for “calm” as the Foreign Office summons the French ambassador to explain the measures taken by Paris.
– Why was the British trawler arrested?
The scallop ship Cornelis was ordered to divert to the port of Le Havre after French authorities said it was fishing in French waters without a license.
The French said another British trawler had been fined for obstruction after refusing to allow police to board for controls.
The Cornelis’s owner, Macduff Shellfish, said the ship had legally fished in French waters and called on the British government to protect the rights of British fishermen.