MISE & Agrave; DAY
Saint-Malo | French fishermen carried out a first operation to block English boats in Saint-Malo on Friday, before limiting access to freight in the Channel Tunnel in the afternoon to demand the settlement of post-Brexit fishing disputes with the United Kingdom. & nbsp;
In Saint-Malo (west), the blockage lasted about an hour, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. (7 a.m. to 8 a.m. GMT), noted an AFP journalist, with a dozen fishing boats participating in the operation, activating smoke bombs. Due to bad weather, there was no ferry from England to the privateer city.
French ships blocked a fishing boat coming from Jersey. A sign of the good-natured atmosphere, the captain of a boat offered a French and Breton flag to the captain of the Jersey boat who hoisted him to the top of the mast. & Nbsp;
“When Europe and the government don't follow through on threats, after a while you have to take control again because otherwise you feel like you won't get anywhere. We are not going to war, we want our rights to be respected, a deal has been made, the English deal is not being respected ”, declared Pascal Leclerc, chairman of the fisheries committee of Ille-et-Vilaine (west), questioned on board by AFP.
Boats have planned to block the entry of ferries from Great Britain into two other ports in the French Channel: Ouistreham , then Calais (north).
In the afternoon, it is aboard their vans that the fishermen have planned to block, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the access of freight trucks at the Channel Tunnel freight terminal.
“We don't want handouts, we just want our licenses back. The UK must abide by the post-Brexit deal. Too many fishermen are still in the dark ”, declared Thursday Gérard Romiti, the president of the national fisheries committee during a press conference.
Symbolic at the entrance to the ports – where the swell does not may not allow all the actions planned – the initiative is more threatening near the tunnel, through which 25% of trade between the United Kingdom and Europe passes.
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 does not are not affected ”.
“ The tree that hides the forest ”
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 (north).
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 slogan 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 robustness 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 are arguing over the nature and extent of the supporting documents to provide.
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.
In this burning issue, the tone has been raised on several occasions. 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 autumn, Paris threatened London with “retaliatory measures”, before giving it up temporarily to give the negotiations started 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.