French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that Britain must cede ground in a post-Brexit fisheries dispute or that France will introduce trade retaliation this week.
“The ball is in Britain’s court,” Macron said after meeting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome.
The dispute over fishing rights threatens to turn into a full-fledged trade war.
Macron’s office said leaders agreed to work on “practical and operational measures” to resolve the dispute in the coming days, and were united on the need for “de-escalation.”
But Downing Street has denied any such deal and insisted it was up to Paris to drop the threat of launching trade retaliation against British fishing catches and other goods from Tuesday.
“If the British do not move, the November 2 measures will have to be put in place,” Macron said. He said he “hoped there would be a positive response tomorrow”.
“I don’t want escalation but we have to be serious,” Macron said.
Mr Johnson said Britain and France were “longtime allies and friends”, but: “On the fish, I have to tell you the position is unchanged”.
France is angry that Britain and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey have not granted some French boats permits to fish in their waters since Brexit came into full force in early 2021.
Paris has promised that unless the licenses are approved, it will ban British vessels from unloading their catches in French ports from next Tuesday and impose controls on all products coming from the United Kingdom.
“If the French government wants to come up with proposals to defuse the threats it has made, we would absolutely welcome them,” Johnson’s spokesman said on Saturday.
And he said the UK will continue to process requests from French fishing vessels and other EU vessels based solely on technical data.
The feud has already led to the arrest of a British trawler in a French port and the summons of the Paris ambassador to London to the Foreign Office for a disguise.
The dispute has taken time because of the two leaders’ busy schedules as they work hard on the climate change agenda for the UN Cop26 meeting, which began in Glasgow on Sunday.
Mr Johnson’s goal in meeting with Mr Macron was to persuade the EU to change a post-Brexit protocol governing trade between Britain and its province of Northern Ireland, his spokesperson said. word.
Mr Johnson said he was “intrigued” by a strongly worded letter from French Prime Minister Jean Castex urging European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to punish Britain for Brexit.
“I don’t think this is compatible with the spirit or the letter of the Withdrawal Agreement or the Trade and Cooperation Agreement,” he said, referring to the agreements between the UK and the EU.
On Saturday in Rome, Mr Johnson complained to Ms von der Leyen that the French threats were “totally unjustified”.
London is warning it could activate a Brexit dispute settlement measure for the first time, exposing the entire EU to UK trade measures if France acts on Tuesday.
Update: October 31, 2021, 9:15 p.m.