France’s minister for Europe has called on the European Union to take retaliatory measures against Britain if there is no resolution to the post-Brexit row over fishing licences by December 10.
The European Commission has said the dispute must be settled by that deadline as it upped the pressure on the UK in the negotiations.
Clement Beaune on Wednesday stressed it is not a Franco-British issue, but a problem between the whole of the European Union and the UK.
Mr Beaune said French punitive measures – such as a ban on British trawlers landing their catches in French ports and tighter customs checks to hamper cross-Channel trade – remain “on the table” if a deal cannot be reached.
He told French radio network RTL: “It was the European Commission that told the British – so all of Europe together – that if you don’t make big gestures with a lot of licences on December 10, we are no longer in a European dialogue.”
On the potential ban by the French, Mr Beaune added: “It’s one of the possible options but it’s better, to be honest, to have European measures.
“All options are on the table, because it’s better to have a dialogue, but… if it doesn’t bear fruit we can take European measures.”
France’s maritime minister Annick Girardin also warned of European retaliatory measures, telling the Ouest France newspaper on Tuesday that “London is testing the solidarity of the European Union” in the spat.
Mr Beaune said talks between Britain, France and the European Commission on the issue have intensified and are happening daily.
The main source of contention is the number of licences to fish in waters around the British coastline for smaller French vessels that can prove they operated in those waters before Brexit.
France says Britain has not handed out enough licences to its fishermen, while the UK Government has insisted the overwhelming majority of applications for licences have been granted.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We continue to have technical discussions with the European Commission and French authorities.
“Our approach to fisheries licences is evidence-based and completely in line with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
“In total, we have licensed nearly 1,700 EU vessels to fish in our waters.
“Where vessels have provided the required evidence, we have issued licences and will continue to do so.”
Mr Beaune has accused the UK Government of being “obsessed with the European Union” and routinely blaming the bloc for its own problems.
The two countries have also been embroiled in a diplomatic row on migrants in the wake of dozens of people dying while attempting to cross the Channel to the UK last week.
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