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Lord Frost Tells The EU To 'Step Back' As Fishing Row With France Intensifies

Lord David Frost criticises France for seizing British boat in the Channel

4 min read

An escalating row over post-Brexit fishing rights in the Channel has intensified after the UK's chief Brexit negotiator confirmed the UK is considering legal proceedings against the EU and France.

Cabinet minister Lord Frost said if threats from Brussels continue over fishing rights, they will be in breach of its post-Brexit trade agreement and the UK will launch a dispute selttlement proceedings. He warned both the EU and France to "step back from rhetoric".

Earlier today Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened legal action against the French over the dispute, which centres on post-Brexit fishing licences that give the French access to UK waters. Lord Frost has now doubled down on that position.

"For our part we will continue to implement our obligations under the Trade and Cooperations Agreement," Frost tweeted on Saturday.

"We will continue to talk constructively to try to resolve all the differences between us, and we urge the EU and France to step back from the rhetoric and actions that make this more difficult."

He claimed a pattern of threats from France form part of a "pattern that has persisted" throughout 2021.

France claims they they are not being granted a fair number of licences from the British, and are accusing Johnson's government of not implementing the conditions of the post-Brexit agreement.

Johnson said this morning the UK could trigger legal action by initiating the dispute mechanism under the post-Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement as early as next week.

Johnson has also maintained he does not want the fishing row to overshadow the work world leaders are undertaking at the G20, or the COP26 climate change summit that begins in Glasgow tomorrow, claiming he has "bigger fish to fry".

The row over fishing escalated earlier this week when France detained a British fishing boat, the Cornelis, over it reportedly not having a licence.

Last night French Prime Minister, Jean Castex ratcheted up tension again when he wrote a letter to European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, leaked to Politico, which said the EU must show that Brexit has been “damaging” to the UK. 

In what seemed like an attempt to ease tension, Johnson was seen fist-bumping French president Macron this morning during the traditional 'family photograph' of G20 leaders. On Sunday the pair are due to meet briefly for short informal discussions in what is known as a 'brush by'. 

Von der Leyen also confirmed she had met with Johnson in Rome today, where she said they had discussed the fishing dispute, as well as a separate dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol which has previously been the focus of tensions between the UK and EU. 

A government spokesperson said the meeting between the two men was pre-arranged and not put in the diary to specifically to address the fishing row. 

Johnson also met with Von Der Leyen at the G20 for bilateral talks on the first day of the summit in Rome. 

After the meeting a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minster stressed that the French threats are completely unjustified and do not appear to be compatible with the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement or wider international law. 

“The Prime Minister reiterated that the UK has granted 98% of licence applications from EU vessels to fish in the UK’s waters and is happy to consider any further evidence for the remaining 2%.”

Three licences had been granted in the last few days alone and Jersey and Guernsey could also administer licences, the Prime Minister's official spokesperson said earlier today.

Boris Johnson has been insistent that he does not wish to distract from important work to tackle climate change that is planned at the COP26 summit this week.

"We've seen a number of comments from the French government at varying levels in recent days and weeks, we don't think they are justified, Johnson's spokesperson said. 

"We will continue to act within the boundaries of the TCA and should France proceed with the threats they have set out we will act in a a proportionate and calibrated manner."

But with Frost's seven-post Twitter-thread, there was little sign of tensions simmering down between France and the UK, or indeed the EU.

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