After weeks of heightened tension, Emmanuel Macron on Sunday offered Boris Johnson to work to “de-escalate” the fishing crisis between France and the United Kingdom, both of whom claim to be within their rights in the ensuing dispute.
“The ball is in the British court,” the French president told the press a few hours after his face-to-face meeting with the British prime minister on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome.
“I hope there will be a British response tomorrow,” he added. Otherwise, he warned, the first retaliatory measures prepared by France would be taken on Tuesday.
Therefore, discussions promise to be very close as the two leaders meet on Monday in Glasgow (UK) to kick off COP26 on climate.
For his part, Boris Johnson remained firm and did not confirm that he had reached an agreement with Emmanuel Macron on the path to a solution.
“On the fish, I must tell you, the situation has not changed,” he said during his last press conference, stressing that the discussion was “frank.”
But his spokesman clarified: “If the French government makes proposals to mitigate the threats it has made, we will welcome them.”
The Brexit agreement, concluded at the end of 2020 between London and Brussels, stipulates that European fishermen can continue to work in certain British waters provided they can prove that they have fished there before. But the French and the British argue about the nature and extent of the supporting documents to be submitted.
To reduce tension, Emmanuel Macron suggested that the two countries agree on a “method” so that “practical and operational measures are taken as quickly as possible,” according to one of his advisers. They are undergoing, he said, a “gradual evolution” in the number and clarity of licenses granted to French fishermen to spawn in British waters, particularly the Channel Islands.
The French presidency stressed that a “solution” is possible because the dispute concerns only “a few dozen French boats.”
“A country I love”
If no progress is made by Tuesday, Paris threatens to enforce a ban on British fishing vessels from offloading their cargo in French ports and to strengthen customs controls on trucks.
London considered these decisions “disproportionate”, as it, in rare cases, summoned the French ambassador and threatened, in response, to strengthen the control of European ships in its waters.
Boris Johnson said he was “confused” to read a letter from Prime Minister Jean Castix, revealed by POLITICO, in which the head of the French government considers it “necessary to clearly show to European public opinion that respect for the commitments made” is “non-negotiable” and that there is It would do more harm to leave the EU than to stay there.”
The Briton responded: “I don’t think this is in the spirit or the letter” of the Brexit agreement.
The French presidency again insisted that such cases were not “British Franco nationals” but “post-Brexit issues to be dealt with between the EU and the UK”. Emmanuel Macron said he has the support of the Commission and other EU countries on the issue, even if some of them, such as Germany, have expressed concern that the crisis will deteriorate further.
Despite the current climate of bilateral tensions, mainly related to the implementation of Brexit but also the illegal crossing of migrants from the canal and the Australian submarine affair, both Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron have insisted on the importance of the links between their countries. The Frenchman said that the UK was “a country that I know very well and I love and I think, Boris Johnson loves France”.
© 2021 AFP
“Food trailblazer. Passionate troublemaker. Coffee fanatic. General analyst. Certified creator. Lifelong music expert. Alcohol specialist.”