An extraordinary spat between Britain and France over post-Brexit fishing rights is threatening to overshadow the vital COP26 summit
Britain has threatened to take legal action again France within 48 hours unless threats over fishing licences are withdrawn.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss ramped up the rhetoric on Monday morning as the diplomatic spat threatened to overshadow the start of the vital COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
Ms Truss accused France of making “completely unreasonable threats” over post-Brexit fishing rights in the Channel – and set a 48-hour deadline to end the row.
Under the Brexit agreement, French vessels can continue to fish in British waters if they can prove they did so before the UK left the EU.
But France has accused the UK of refusing to grant enough permits to small boats.
President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at the G20 summit in Rome that “the ball is in Britain’s court” and sad he will trigger retaliation measures on Tuesday if Britain doesn’t act.
Those include blocking some British boats from French ports – and ramping up customs checks on British truckers entering France.
Asked about whether France and the UK 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.”
She 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.”
Pierre-Henri Dumont, a French politician for the Republicans party, warned that “harder negotiations” may need to begin – and accused the UK of not fulfilling its promises.
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.”
It comes amid wider tensions between the UK and Brussels over the part of the Brexit agreement governing Northern Ireland.
European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic warned the UK against taking a bullish approach over the EU’s offer to reduce checks on good entering Northern Ireland.
The PM has been trying to rip up his own Brexit agreement, which effectively created a border down the Irish Sea.
Brexit Minister Lord Frost accused the EU of behaving “without regard to the huge political, economic and identity sensitivities” in Northern Ireland by refusing to tear up the deal.
He said the EU had “destroyed cross-community consent” with an “overly strict” enforcement of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Bur Mr Sefcovic said: “I am increasingly concerned that the UK government will refuse to engage with this and embark on a path of confrontation.”