French fishermen who claim to have been “humiliated” by Britain over post-Brexit operating licenses have started blocking British vessels.
Their boats lined the entrance to the port of Saint-Malo at dawn on Friday to prevent the British Normandy Trader from entering the port of Brittany from Jersey.
Fishermen wielded red flares in the air as they circled their boats outside Saint-Malo to block the ship’s path – a prelude to a planned blockade later Friday of Calais and the Channel Tunnel, two transport hubs for trade between Great Britain and mainland Europe.
“We are hostage to politics,” said Pascal Lecler, one of the fishermen from Saint-Malo. “It doesn’t make us happy to be here, but it can’t go on.”
Mr Lecler said some 150 French boats were still waiting for London to grant them licenses to fish in UK waters.
Gérard Romiti, Chairman of France’s powerful National Fisheries Committee, said: “This shows how professional fishermen come together in response to the UK’s provocative, contemptuous and humiliating attitude towards them. “
Friday’s blockades were to last up to two hours each, said Mr Romiti, who said they were to be considered “warning shots”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “We are disappointed by the threats of protest activity.
“It will be up to the French to ensure that there are no illegal acts and that trade is not affected.
Before Brexit, French fishermen had the right to fish freely in UK waters under EU law and only had to apply for a license from their own government.
But earlier this year, the new Brexit deal entered into force, which means French fishermen must now apply for a license from the UK.
All vessels which have fished in UK waters “for at least four years between 2012 and 2016” should have the same level of access until at least 2026, when it will be up to the UK and France to negotiate new agreements.
The United Kingdom asks French vessels to provide monitoring and fishing quota data for these years in order to be eligible for a license.
The French protested, saying small vessels under 12 meters do not collect this data and are unfairly punished.
The Independent Gt