Johnson tells Von der Leyen that French threats are “completely unjustified” | Brexit
Boris Johnson told European Commission President French threats to block British exports in response to fishing license dispute were “completely unjustified”, as ports of Calais and Boulogne warned of disaster imminent.
During a meeting with Ursula von der Leyen at the G20 summit in Rome, the Prime Minister expressed his “concerns about the rhetoric of the French government,” a government spokesperson said.
UK Brexit Minister David Frost also expressed “concern and surprise” following a letter from French Prime Minister Jean Castex to Von der Leyen in which he called for an EU-level response on the alleged lack of licenses for French ships. wishing to operate in the coastal waters of the United Kingdom and Jersey.
Castex had written to Von der Leyen, who has not yet publicly supported Paris on the issue, that it was “essential to show European public opinion that … it does more damage to leave the EU than to leave the EU. stay there “.
“I hope this opinion is not more prevalent across the EU,” Frost tweeted on Saturday in response to the letter. “To see it expressed in this way is clearly very troubling and very problematic in the current context where we are trying to resolve many very sensitive issues, including the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
Frost, who called on the French government to withdraw from its projects at its ports, also said: for example, through the Horizon research program, unfortunately are part of a pattern that has persisted for much of this year .
“As I was about to [European Commission vice-president] Maroš Šefčovič, these threats, if implemented on November 2, would put the EU in violation of its obligations under our trade agreement.
Frost said the UK government “is actively considering initiating dispute settlement proceedings, pursuant to Section 738 of the [trade and cooperation agreement]», Which could lead to the use of tariffs on French goods in the event of failure of the arbitration.
Paris said it would gradually increase customs and health controls on cargo, tighten controls on trucks entering and leaving France and ban trawlers from landing their catches in French ports if the dispute is not resolved. The French government is also considering raising the price of nuclear power supplied to Jersey through submarine cables.
Jean-Marc Puissesseau, the head of the ports of Calais and Boulogne, said he had already received instructions to prevent British fishermen from disembarking in Boulogne from Tuesday while border authorities in Calais would apply tighter controls on loaded trucks merchandise.
“It will be a drama, it will be a disaster,” he told the BBC. “It will be chaos in your country because the trucks will not cross, it will be chaos in the ports… It has gotten to a ridiculous point, I would say.
“I hope the British and [the French] find an agreement, we find a solution to get out of this point. I know there are discussions over the weekend so I really hope.
Speaking at the G20 summit, Johnson also confirmed that the UK may consider formal action under the trade and cooperation agreement.
When asked if he would rule out triggering such action next week, Johnson told Sky News: “No, of course not, I’m not ruling that out.”
Speaking in a series of interviews aired at the Coliseum in the Italian capital, he said: “If there is a violation of the treaty or if we believe there is a violation of the treaty, we will do so. necessary to protect British interests. “
When asked if he thought there had been a breach, he said it was likely, but stressed his desire that the dispute should not overshadow the efforts on climate change discussed at the G20 before. next week’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow.
“I’m afraid there is. I look at what is happening at the moment and I think we have to sort it out but it is frankly a small beer, insignificant, compared to the threat to humanity that we are facing ”, he said. he declares.
The UK has only approved 16 of 47 applications for French vessels to operate in UK coastal waters. Fourteen other applications are under consideration when evidence of activity in these waters was limited, but 17 applications were withdrawn by French applicants due to “weak evidence”.
French authorities are more concerned that 55 boats requesting to fish in waters off Jersey have been refused by the island’s government due to lack of evidence that they fished there for 10 days during one of the last three years.
Officials from the European Commission, the UK, France and Jersey were seeking a way out of the crisis in talks throughout the weekend.
In an interview with the Financial Times, French President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet with Johnson at the G20 meeting in Rome on Sunday, said the dispute was a test of the UK’s credibility.
“When you spend years negotiating a treaty and a few months later you do the opposite of what was decided on the things that suit you the least, that’s not a big sign of your credibility.