He denied that Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron had reached a deal to calm their increasingly bitter dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights.
After a «surprising» meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, French officials were quoted as saying that they agreed to try to resolve their differences.
However, in a briefing to British journalists, the British Prime Minister’s spokesperson made it clear that the UK does not recognize claims that there is an agreement.
«I’ve seen the same reports. The French will decide whether they want to walk away from the threats they have made in recent days about breaching the Brexit (trade) agreement,» the spokesman said.
French officials have warned that they will ban British fishing boats from some ports and tighten customs checks on trucks entering the country with British goods from Tuesday unless more licenses are granted for their small boats to fish in British waters.
Britain said the threats were a breach of the Post-Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the UK and the European Union and warned that it could trigger the dispute mechanism under the terms of the agreement.
Johnson’s spokesman said: «The prime minister reiterated his deep concern about rhetoric from the French government in recent days, including the French prime minister’s suggestion that the UK should be penalized for leaving the EU.
He expressed his hope that the French government would de-escalate this rhetoric and withdraw its threats.
There is frustration on the British side that the rift between the two sides has at times overshadowed preparations for crucial international talks on climate change at the COP26 summit that begins in Glasgow on Monday.
The dispute comes on the heels of allegations by the French that dozens of French boats have claims to fish in UK waters and the Channel Islands, allegations that the British vehemently contested.
In the run-up to the meeting between the two leaders, there was little sign of a compromise on either side.
France’s Europe Minister Clément Payon tweeted that Paris «is ready to implement proportionate and reversible measures from November 2, as we have repeatedly announced since last April.»
He insisted the measures were «fully in line» with the anti-terror law.
His warning came after Brexit Secretary David Frost said the entire European Union would violate the deal if France carried out its threats.
The conservative counterpart, in a series of tweets on Saturday, said the UK was «actively considering» initiating legal procedures included in the Anti-Terrorism Act if there was no solution to the problem.
«These threats, if implemented on November 2, will put the EU in breach of its obligations under our Trade Agreement,» he wrote on Twitter.
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The government was particularly outraged by a letter from French Prime Minister Jean Castex to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in which he said the UK should show it «is doing more harm than leaving the EU than staying».
Johnson raised the message in a meeting with von der Leyen on the sidelines of the G20 on Saturday.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: «The Prime Minister has raised his concerns about the French government’s rhetoric in recent days regarding the issuance of fishing licenses.
«The Prime Minister stressed that the French threats are wholly unjustified and do not appear to be compatible with the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement or broader international law.»
A row over the fishing port escalated this week after French authorities seized a Scotland-registered scallop dredge, accusing it of fishing without a license.
The ship’s captain, Cornelis Gert Jan, who is understood to be an Irish citizen, has been asked to face a court hearing in August next year.
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