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Brexit: Foreign Secretary Liz Truss summons France’s ambassador as fishing rights row escalates

The Government will question the ambassador on the “disappointing and disproportionate” threats of retaliation

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has summoned France’s ambassador to the UK as the row over post-Brexit fishing rights dramatically escalated.

The Government will question Catherine Colonna on the “disappointing and disproportionate” threats of retaliation by Paris over what it claims is a lack of licences for French boats to fish in UK waters.

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Environment Secretary George Eustice also warned France this morning that “two can play at that game” in a warning the UK could retaliate if Paris goes ahead with “inflammatory” threats.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • Ms Truss took the rare step of ordering an allied nation’s envoy to be summoned in a sign of the UK’s concern about the row, which has already seen one UK trawler detained in a French port.
  • French ministers have warned they will block British boats from some French ports and tighten checks on vessels travelling between France and the UK if the issue is not resolved by Tuesday – as well as threatening the electricity supply to the Channel Islands.
  • UK ministers met on Thursday to consider the response, with the prospect of tit-for-tat action if France carries out its threats.
  • Brexit Minister Lord Frost, who chaired the meeting, said: “I remain concerned by French plans on fisheries and beyond”, adding that “we expect to have more to say” on Friday.
  • The Government views the proposed actions as “unjustified” and questioned whether they were compatible with the UK-EU trade deal “or wider international law”.

What’s been said

Ms Truss said: “I have instructed Europe Minister Wendy Morton to summon the French Ambassador to the UK for talks… to explain the disappointing and disproportionate threats made against the UK and Channel Islands.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice did not rule out blocking French vessels in return as he struck out at a claim from France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune that the only language Britain understands is “the language of force”.

Mr Eustice told BBC Breakfast: “That is completely inflammatory and is the wrong way to go about things.”

Asked how the UK will respond if France does go ahead and block British trawlers, the Cabinet minister said: “Two can play at that game.”

Background

The scallop vessel Cornelis Gert Jan was caught up in the diplomatic storm, ordered to divert to the port of Le Havre on Wednesday after the French authorities said it was fishing in French waters without a licence.

The French said that another British trawler had also been fined for obstruction after refusing to allow police to board to carry out checks.

The owner of the Cornelis, Macduff Shellfish, said the vessel had been fishing legally in French waters and called on the British Government to protect the rights of British fishermen.

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