Laura Kuennsberg on Macron's real motives behind fishing war
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Threats made by Emmanuel Macron’s government have set the clock ticking towards an almighty bust-up. Last week Paris accused the UK of deliberately refusing to issue post-Brexit fishing licences and gave officials until November 2 to fold to its demands.
The French government has vowed to implement a series of escalating measures in retaliation if they do not get their way.
Paris has warned it will bar UK fishing boats from some ports and tighten customs checks on lorries entering the country with British goods unless more licences for small boats to fish in British waters are granted.
The measures would risk causing supply issues for the UK in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
There have also been threats to cut off the UK’s electricity if the UK still refuses to budge.
With just two days to go until France’s deadline, Mr Macron and Prime Minister Boris Johnson remain at stalemate on the issue.
The pair are set to meet today for what could be the final chance to stop a trade war.
British ministers have warned they will step up their patrols of UK waters and turf out European boats fishing illegally if France carries out its threats.
Mr Johnson has also raised Mr Macron’s behaviour with Ursula von der Leyen, urging her to rein in the French President.
Following a meeting with the European Commission President, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister raised his concerns about the rhetoric from the French government in recent days over the issue of fishing licences.
“The Prime Minister stressed that the French threats are completely unjustified and do not appear to be compatible with the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement or wider international law.”
Lord Frost has also said the UK is “actively considering” triggering legal proceedings included in the trade agreement to solve the issue.
He said: “These threats, if implemented on November 2, would put the EU in breach of its obligations under our trade agreement.
“So we are actively considering launching dispute settlement proceedings as set out in Article 738 of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement.”
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The EU is understood to be looking at the measures proposed by France to see if it agrees the retaliation would break the terms of the deal.
Ministers in London have rejected the accusations made in Paris that the UK is failing to honour its finishing commitments.
The EU trade deal signed last December states that any European vessels with historic links to fishing in UK waters must be issued fishing licences.
Britain says 171 vessels have been licensed to fish in the UK six to 12 nautical mile zone, of which 103 are French, with 18 under 12 metres.
Officials say they have only rejected applications from boats that have failed to supply the necessary evidence to prove they have historically used the waters.
Earlier this week, Mr Macron’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, admitted the country was making threats as he believed it was the best chance of getting the UK to issue more fishing licences.
“We need to speak the language of strength since that seems to be the only thing this British government understands,” he said.
Mr Beaune added that the current number of licences handed out by the UK was “not enough and not acceptable”.
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