Enough is enough. French fishermen have decided to raise their voice against the United Kingdom as post-Brexit fishing disputes are struggling to be settled between Paris and London. Professionals in the sector have thus launched a “pressure surge” with operations to block ports, as in Saint-Malo. They must also block, Friday, November 26, access to the freight of the Channel tunnel, on the French side. This is the first time since the blockade of the island of Jersey last May that French fishermen have organized a “big day of action”.
Dozens of boats must block the entry of ferries coming from Great Britain in three ports of the French Channel: Saint-Malo the Breton, Ouistreham the Norman (12h) then Calais the guardian of the North (2h). In Saint-Malo, the blockage began as explained by Pascal Leclerc, president of the Ille-et-Vilaine fisheries committee, aboard the Franck Annie. “We took the option of blocking the port of Saint-Malo both at the exit and at the entry. The goal is to normally delay a ferry by one hour on delivery of everything it had on board. another boat arrives from Jersey with fishery products, it is going to be blocked too “, he explained.
“When Europe and the government do not carry out threats, after a while you are forced to take control again because otherwise you have the impression that you will not achieve anything. no going to war, we want our rights to be respected, a deal has been made, the English deal is not being respected, “he said. In the afternoon, it is aboard their vans that the fishermen have planned to block, from 2 to 4 p.m., the access of goods trucks to the freight terminal of the Channel Tunnel.
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“We do not want handouts, we only want to get our licenses back. The UK must respect the post-Brexit agreement. Too many fishermen are still on the sidelines,” Gérard Romiti, chairman of the national committee, said on Thursday. of peaches at a press conference. Symbolic at the entrance to ports – where the swell may not allow all the planned actions – the initiative is more threatening near the tunnel, through which 25% of trade between the United Kingdom and the Europe.
London received the message and reacted on Thursday evening, saying it was “disappointed” by these “threats of protest” and urging France to “ensure that illegal acts are not committed and that trade is not affected. “.
The aim is to block “exports (…) to England, to reach the British population and raise awareness of what is happening. They have access to the European market and we still do not have access to their waters”, explained Olivier Leprêtre, president of the Hauts-de-France fisheries committee. It is a “punch action to show what we are capable of but if we have to go further, we will target other products”, he added, specifying that the watchword was ” to allow passengers to pass and to block the freight “.
For the chairman of the national committee, “this issue of licenses is the tree that hides the forest: its resolution will depend on long-term relations with the United Kingdom”. While questioning the strength of the European commitment alongside EU fishermen, Gérard Romiti welcomed the “ultimatum” launched Wednesday by the European Commission, which asked London to settle this dispute by December 10 .
Under the Brexit agreement signed at the end of 2020 between London and Brussels, European fishermen can continue to work in British waters provided they can prove that they were fishing there before. But the French and the British argue over the nature and extent of the supporting documents to be provided. In total, since January 1, 2021, France has obtained “more than 960 licenses” for fishing in British waters and the Channel Islands, but Paris is still asking for more than 150 authorizations, according to the French Ministry of the Sea.
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In this burning issue, the tone has risen several times. Last May, a French flotilla headed for Jersey for a blockade of a few hours, leading to the dispatch of British patrol boats. In the fall, Paris threatened London with “retaliatory measures”, before giving it up temporarily to give the negotiations in Brussels a chance.
French fishermen today feel comforted by the renewed support last Sunday from President Emmanuel Macron and his Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin, who assured that they would fight to the end to defend their interests.
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