UK-France fish spat deepens despite Macron and Johnson talks ::



– French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in rival positions on Sunday in their countries’ post-Brexit dispute over Channel fishing, with France maintaining its threat to impose sanctions from Tuesday which could include a blockade of British ships.

The two leaders held a 30-minute meeting on Sunday morning as they attended the Group of 20 summit in Rome, and each addressed escalating tensions over the licensing of fishing as they held talks. separate press conferences at the end of the meeting.

“I don’t want escalation, but we have to take it seriously,” Macron said. “My wish is not to go towards retaliatory measures … it is rather to find an agreement.”

France has threatened to deny British ships access to some of its ports and to tighten controls on boats and trucks carrying British goods if more French vessels are not allowed to fish in British waters. here Tuesday. Paris has also suggested that it could restrict energy supplies to the Channel Islands, British Crown dependencies off the French coast and heavily dependent on French electricity.

Macron said he invited Johnson to work on a “methodology” to grant more fishing licenses to French vessels.

“The ball is now in their court. If the British do not make any significant gesture, (retaliatory) measures from November 2 will have to be implemented, ”said the French president. “I would regret it. But what we cannot do is not respond and defend our fishermen.”

Fishing is an economically tiny industry, but symbolically important to maritime nations like Great Britain and France. Britain’s exit from European Union economic rules of 27 countries earlier this year means the UK now controls who fishes in its waters.

Paris says some vessels have been denied fishing permits in waters where they have been sailing for a long time. Britain claims to have granted 98% of requests from EU ships, and now the dispute boils down to a few dozen French ships with insufficient papers.

Johnson, speaking alongside Macron on Sunday, said the UK’s position “remains unchanged”.

“I must say that I was puzzled to read a letter from the French Prime Minister explicitly calling for Britain to be punished for leaving the EU,” the Prime Minister said. “I just have to tell everyone I don’t think it’s compatible either with the spirit or the letter” of the UK Withdrawal Agreement and the post-Brexit trade deal with the ‘EU.

Both sides accuse the other of violating the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. Britain says it is “actively” considering launching dispute settlement, a formal legal process in the deal, if France does not drop its threats.

A senior French official said Johnson and Macron agreed at their meeting on Sunday that it was necessary to speak to each other “in a situation of significant tension”. He said action should be taken “as soon as possible” to achieve de-escalation.

The French official, speaking anonymously in accordance with usual presidency practices, said France and Britain would have discussions “in the hours and days to come” on practical details, with the aim “of” to ease tensions and stabilize the situation “.

Britain, however, has denied that the leaders have agreed to take action to defuse the spat, saying it is entirely up to France to calm the waters.

The UK government said in a statement that during the meeting Johnson “reiterated his deep concern” over France’s rhetoric and “expressed hope that the French government is defusing itself.”

Johnson spokesman Max Blain said “it will be up to the French to decide whether they want to withdraw from the threats they have made in recent days.”

“Both in our rhetoric and in our actions, we have by no means sought to escalate this,” Blain said. “. De-escalation should come from the French side.”

But French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune on Sunday accused Britain of “targeting” France in a “political choice” and said Britain had violated the terms of the Brexit deal.

“For the whole of the EU, around 90% of the expected licenses have been granted, but all the missing licenses are French,” he tweeted.


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