They demand the settlement of post-Brexit fishing disputes with London. The French fishermen began, Friday November 26 at midday, the blocking of the traffic of the car ferries in Calais, a new stage, after Saint-Malo, of a day of protest which must also disrupt the traffic of the tunnel under the Handle.
In Calais, six fishing vessels from Boulogne-sur-Mer deployed shortly after 12 p.m. to block the port, an operation scheduled to last an hour and a half. “We want our licenses back” could be read on a banner deployed on a trawler.
It is “Put pressure on the British government”, underlined before embarking the president of the fisheries committee of Hauts-de-France, Olivier Leprêtre. He notably denounced the “Overexploitation in French waters”, generated, according to him, by the British attitude, amounting to 35 fishing licenses not issued in Hauts-de-France.
For the president of the port, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, this symbolic action should not have too great an impact. The fishermen are committed to “Do not infringe on each other’s turnover”, he stressed, specifying that there would be no complaint.
In Saint-Malo, the blockage lasted about an hour, from 8 am to 9 am, around ten fishing boats participating in the operation, activating smoke bombs. Due to the bad weather there was no ferry, but the French ships blocked a fishing boat coming from Jersey, in a good-natured atmosphere.
“When Europe and the government do not carry out threats, after a while you are forced to take control, because otherwise you have the impression that you will not achieve anything. We are not warmongers, we want our rights to be respected, a deal has been made, the English deal is not being respected ”, declared Pascal Leclerc, president of the fisheries committee in Ille-et-Vilaine.
Boats must also block the entry of ferries from Great Britain into the port of Ouistreham in the early afternoon. At the same time, aboard vans, the fishermen have planned to block, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the access of goods trucks to the freight terminal of the Channel Tunnel.
“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 left behind ”, insisted Thursday Gérard Romiti, the president of the National Fisheries Committee, during a press conference.
Symbolic at the entrance to ports, 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 ” disappointed “ by these “Threats of protest” and urging France to “Ensure that illegal acts are not committed and that trade is not affected”.
” The tree that hides the forest “
For the President 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 of the 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 deal 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 have previously fished there. But the French and the British argue over the nature and extent of the supporting documents to be provided.
In total, since 1er January 2021, France obtained “More than 960 licenses” fishing in British waters and the Channel Islands, but Paris is still asking for more than 150 authorizations.
In this burning issue, the tone has risen several times. Last May, a French flotilla headed for Jersey for a blockade of a few hours. In the fall, Paris threatened London with “Retaliatory measures”, before giving it up temporarily to give the negotiations a chance in Brussels.
French fishermen today feel comforted by the renewed support last Sunday from President Emmanuel Macron, who assured that he would fight to the end to defend their interests.