Brexit has caused the historic tensions between the UK and France over fisheries to reignite once more – and Paris is warning Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be unable to stop the country’s fishermen from exploring British fishing grounds.
The statement was made by France’s Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume as he maintained there is “no scenario” in which Mr Johnson can keep French fishermen out of UK waters. In July 2019, Mr Guillaume said: “It is possible that with Boris Johnson we will have a hard Brexit. “There is no scenario in which French fishermen should be prevented, could be prevented, would be prevented by Boris Johnson, from fishing in British waters. “There is no reason for it. So I will keep telling Britain that our fishermen must be allowed to keep fishing in its water.”
Brexit negotiations have got off to a tense start due to fallout over fisheries.
French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to fight for his country’s access to British waters.
He said last month: “I want to tell our fishermen that I will fight for them. If we do not get the same access as today, we will seek compensation.
“I will not let our fishermen pay for a British vote they could do nothing about.”
Fishermen on both sides of the English Channel have been involved in two huge flashpoints over scallops in recent years.
In 2012, the Great Scallop War started when, according to British fishermen, French boats surrounded UK boats and slammed them.
The attack involved the throwing of rocks and nets resulting in damage to the propellers and engines of the boats.
The French claimed that British fishermen had ventured inside the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy 12 mile exclusion zone, something they denied.
Similar violence would then erupt in 2018 – again over scallops – as French fishing boats tried to prevent several British fishing vessels from catching sea scallops off the Normandy coast.
The situation quickly descended into chaos when three British trawlers were chased by French boats, hit by stones and rammed by their counterparts.
On top of this, petrol bombs and rocket flares were thrown as the British boats fled the area to find shelter. The relentless attacks from French fishermen came despite UK vessels being permitted to fish in the Bay of Seine area.
Footage of the incident broadcast by France 3 Normandie showed boats colliding as an object was thrown towards them, and the video also showed a Scottish vessel colliding with a smaller boat.
MP for South East Cornwall Sheryl Murray hit out at the “thuggery” of the fishermen from France.
She said: “This is just unfair. British boats are doing nothing wrong and yet we are seeing this sort of thuggery from their French counterparts.”
Prime Minister at the time, Theresa May, urged both parties to settle their differences, saying: “I think it’s important we see an amicable solution to what has happened in the Channel.
“It’s what we want and it’s what France wants and we will be working on that.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to regain independent control of UK waters and prevent EU member states from maintaining unfettered access.
But the EU has other ideas, as it looks to preserve the conditions of the Common Fisheries Policy.
The bloc’s negotiator – Michel Barnier – has received backing by the EU27 on his red lines for trade talks with the UK – meaning the bloc will demand access to British waters in return for access to European markets.
This will likely lead to a stalemate however, as Mr Johnson and his government have passed a bill through Parliament which guarantees the UK is no longer part of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy come December.