British government «actively studying» legal procedures to challenge French fishing threats

The UK is «actively» considering initiating legal action against France over its threats over fishing licenses as tensions across the channels deteriorate.

Brexit Secretary David Frost has warned the European Union that it would be «a breach of its commitments» under its post-Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom if Paris carried out its threats to stop British boats from landing their catch in French ports while tightening controls on vessels .

France gave the UK until Tuesday to grant more licenses to small French boats to fish in British waters or face sanctions at borders and ports.

But the UK warned France that if it moved next week, it was ready to start legal action, arguing that Paris would have breached the terms of its trade agreement with Brussels.

Both Boris Johnson and David Frost escalated their pressure on the European Union in an attempt to encourage the bloc’s leaders to withdraw France from its proposed response.

In a meeting with the EU’s chief official, Ursula von der Leyen, at the G20 in Rome, Downing Street said the prime minister warned that the threats «do not appear to be compatible with the UK-EU Trade Cooperation Agreement (TCA) or broader international law. «.

The comments came after Johnson refused to rule out triggering the trade pact’s dispute-settlement clause – which could lead to fines or even suspend the treaty – if France does not back down.

On Saturday, Frost reiterated that the UK was ready to take legal action as a result of the fishing dispute.

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In a series of tweets, the conservative counterpart rallied against comments made by French Prime Minister Jean Castix in a letter to European Commission President von der Leyen, that he should show the UK «it is doing more harm to leave the EU than to stay in».

Frost said: “It is clear that expressing it in this way is very troubling and very problematic in the current context when we are trying to resolve many very sensitive issues, including the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“This is more so because the threats this week by France to our fishing industry, energy supply and future cooperation, for example through the Horizon Research Program, unfortunately form part of a pattern that has continued much of this year.

And as I explained yesterday (to Vice-President of the European Commission) Maros Sefcovic, these threats, if implemented on November 2, would put the European Union in breach of its obligations under our trade agreement.

«Therefore we are seriously considering initiating dispute settlement procedures as stipulated in Article 738 of the Commercial Arbitration Law.»

The prime minister and French President Emmanuel Macron are due to speak on the sidelines of the G20 summit this weekend, with suggestions that they may meet on Saturday.

During interviews in Rome, Johnson left the door open for a solution with Mr Macron as he described the UK as «very keen to work with our friends and partners».

Johnson repeated the statement he made on the flight to Italy, vowing to «take steps to protect the interests of the United Kingdom» if there is a breach of TCA law with the European Union.

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At the center of the dispute are licenses for small boats, which are only issued if the ships can establish a fishing history in British waters.

According to Number 10, Johnson stressed during his conversation with von der Leyen that the UK was «happy to consider any further evidence» of the denied license applications. The UK said only 2% of offers for EU licenses were rejected.

In comments made ahead of the Rome talks, a Commission spokesperson said the trade deal stipulated that «ships that fished in these waters before (Brexit) must be allowed to continue» and appealed to Britain to look into each case, «boat».

A row over the fishing port escalated this week after French authorities seized a Scotland-registered scallop dredge after 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.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss took the rare step of ordering the envoy of an allied country on her call to Catherine Colonna, the French ambassador to the United Kingdom, to be summoned to the Foreign Office on Friday afternoon to challenge her over France’s position.

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