France has threatened “retaliatory action” after it accused the UK for “taking French fishing hostage”.
Sea minister Annick Girardin lashed out at the decision to refuse three-quarters of licence applications for small boats in British waters – with only 12 out of 47 French boats under 12 metres granted permission.
She said it is a “new refusal of the British to apply the conditions of the Brexit accord”, adding: “French fishing must not be taken hostage by the British for political ends.”
But UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told Sky News that the decision was “reasonable” and follows the Brexit agreement.
France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune said the country will “not hesitate to take retaliatory action”, sparking fears of another fishing war in the Channel.
French MP Jean-Pierre Pont, who represents coastal town Boulogne-sur-Mer, warned UK’s actions could result in French fishermen blocking ports and lorries wanting to enter the tunnel.
He said: “Be warned. Since the British are refusing to honour what they signed, as with other Anglo-Saxons in another area, the French fishermen of Boulogne-sur-Mer may be obliged, after nine months of useless patience, to envisage ways to retaliate against the UK.
“For example, by blocking ports or the entry of lorries towards the UK through the tunnel.”
Earlier this year, French fishermen protests prompted Royal Navy vessels, and the situation was described as being “pretty close to an act of war”.
The head of the joint Normandy-Brittany sea authority declared they were “ready for war” as tensions threatened to spill over in the Channel.
Responding to two navy vessels being sent by Britain to patrol the situation, France’s fishing chief issued a stark warning to the island, saying its country had the ability to “bring Jersey to its knees if necessary”.
Agence France-Presse reported two police vessels were to the island as disputes over post-Brexit fishing rights were intensifying.
And dozens of French fishing boats gathered off Jersey’s capital, St Helier, amid fears they were preparing to blockade the harbour.
Girardin said at the time that Paris would cut off electricity to Jersey – which gets 95% of its power supply from France – if the dispute was not resolved.
Jersey fisherman Josh Dearing, originally from Kent, said French vessels looked “like an invasion”.
He said: “The French being the French, they don’t mess around. They can blockade their own harbours – they wouldn’t think twice about coming and doing it to us.”
The current tensions come amid an ongoing dispute between the UK and France over migrants crossing the Channel, as well as France being upset with the UK’s decision to sign up to the AUKUS defence agreement.