UK-France fish spat deepens despite Macron-Johnson meeting | national news

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ROME (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met privately on Sunday to try to resolve a growing dispute over Channel fishing – but subsequently the two countries appeared more distant than ever and gave radically different versions of the outcome of the meeting.

The post-Brexit dispute over the licensing of fishing in British coastal waters threatens to escalate within days into a damaging French blockade of British boats.

After the 30-minute meeting between Macron and Johnson on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Rome, a senior French official said the two leaders agreed that it was necessary to speak to each other “in a situation of significant tensions ”. He said action should be taken “as soon as possible” to achieve de-escalation.

Britain, however, denied that the leaders had agreed to take action to defuse the spat, saying it was entirely up to France to calm the waters.

The UK government said in a statement that during the meeting Johnson “reiterated his deep concern” over France’s rhetoric and “expressed hope that the French government is defusing itself.”

Johnson spokesman Max Blain said “our position has not changed”.

“It will be up to the French to decide whether they want to walk away from the threats they have been making in recent days,” Blain said.

“Both in our rhetoric and in our actions, we have in no way sought to escalate this. … The de-escalation should come from the French side.

A second French official said that “the difference in points of view shows a different state of mind” and that Paris cares about the commitments that have been made and the Franco-British relationship.

Fishing is an economically tiny industry, but symbolically important to maritime nations like Great Britain and France. Britain’s exit from the economic rules of the 27-nation bloc earlier this year means the UK now controls who fishes in its waters.

France claims that some vessels have been refused fishing permits in waters where they have been sailing for a long time. Britain claims to have granted 98% of requests from EU ships, and now the dispute boils down to a few dozen French ships with insufficient papers.

But French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune on Sunday accused Britain of “targeting” France in a “political choice” and said Britain had violated the Brexit deal agreed by the two. parts.

“For the whole of the EU, around 90% of the expected licenses have been granted, but all the missing licenses are French,” he tweeted.

Macron stressed to Johnson the need to “honor the commitments” made by the UK and the European Union under the Brexit deal, the French presidency said in a statement.

The French official said France “has made specific requests for licenses to be granted to a specific number of vessels” in British waters and around the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

He said France and Britain would have talks “in the hours and days to come” on practical details, with the aim “of easing tensions and stabilizing the situation”.

Both sides accuse the other of violating the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. Britain says it is “actively” considering launching dispute settlement, a formal legal process in the deal, if France does not drop its threats.

France has threatened to ban British ships from some of its ports and to tighten checks on ships and trucks carrying British goods if licenses are not granted by Tuesday.

The official declined to say whether France is still ready to impose the sanctions.

“We are not there yet,” he said. He spoke anonymously in accordance with the practices of the French presidency.

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