British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned France it has 48 hours to back down on threats made in a row about fishing licences or Britain will begin dispute talks set out in the Brexit deal.
Asked about whether France and Britain had come to an agreement, she told Sky News: “The deal hasn’t been done, the French have made completely unreasonable threats, including to the Channel Islands and to our fishing industry and they need to withdraw those threats, or else we will use the mechanisms of our trade agreement with the EU to take action.”
She said the action would take the form of using the dispute resolution mechanism under the post-Brexit trade deal to seek “compensatory measures.”
“That is what we will do if the French don’t back down,” she added.
“Stop threatening UK fishing vessels, stop threatening the Channel ports and accept we are entirely within our rights to allocate the fishing licences in line with the trade agreement.”
When Britain left the EU, it promised to continue to allow French fishing crews access to its waters, as had been standard when both countries were members of the bloc. However, French and EU officials have argued in recent weeks that Britain is failing to renew permits that have routinely been approved in the past.
France has threatened to close its harbours to British fishing crews starting on Tuesday. Additionally, it has threatened increased checks of British lorries and boats.
Britain has denied any change in its behaviour and has promised responses to the French threats that would affect the entire EU.
Truss said she would “absolutely” take legal action in the coming days if France does not back down on threats, saying: “This issue needs to be resolved in the next 48 hours.”
She suggested French President Emmanuel Macron may be making “unreasonable threats” because he has a difficult election looming.
Asked why the row has emerged, she told Sky News: “You might say there’s a French election coming up.”
Truss seemed angered by the dispute and said: “I’m not remotely happy about what has happened.”
Pierre-Henri Dumont, a French politician for the Republicans party, said France just wants the Britain to “fulfil its commitments that were made during the post-Brexit treaty.”
He said he thinks “harder negotiations” may need to be opened up with the British side.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we are asking is just for the British government to fulfil and keep its promises that were made by signing this post-Brexit agreement.
“We’re not asking any more. We’re not asking for something that was not into this treaty.
“We’re just asking for the British Government to fulfil and to keep its signature. That’s it.”
But Truss said Britain will not “roll over” in the face of French threats. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The French need to withdraw those threats otherwise we will use the dispute resolution mechanism in the EU deal to take action.
“We’re simply not going to roll over in the face of these threats.”