Fishing threats ‘going to cause a lot of harm’ says expert
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The Leader of the House said Paris is “always a little bit touchy” around this time of year. He said the end of October was a permanent reminder to France of losses to Britain in historical wars.
Mr Macron has threatened to impose sanctions on the UK unless more fishing licences are issued for French boats.
He originally imposed a deadline of Tuesday of this week for Britain to give ground on the matter before delaying his ultimatum at the 11th hour until tomorrow.
Mr Rees-Mogg shrugged off the threats coming from Paris as little more than an annual strop.
“I think it’s late-October-itis,” he joked when speaking to a Conservative Home podcast.
“You see, we have very important anniversaries at the end of October.
“We have Trafalgar Day on the 21st and Agincourt Day on the 25th.
“The French are always a little bit touchy at the end of October and get upset about things.”
Mr Macron has warned he is ready to block British boats from landing their catches in French ports and tighten customs checks if more fishing licences are not issued.
The UK says it is implementing the terms of the EU trade deal and will not back down.
It remains confident the measures being proposed by France break international law and cannot be implemented.
Keeping up his analogy to the previous battles, Mr Rees-Mogg said he didn’t think “we’re expecting a victory on that scale” as he suggested the UK would win the row over licences.
“France is an important neighbour and a friendly ally who we work very closely with, particularly on defence matters,” he said.
“But Macron has his own political audience and his prime minister rather let the cat out of the bag when he wrote to the President of the European Commission saying now is the time to look for the punishment briefing – I mean, I paraphrase, but that’s what he wanted.”
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He added that “Macron has always been hostile to Brexit, he’s always been hostile to the freedoms that we have got”.
The UK says it has granted licences to 98 percent of EU vessels that have requested permission to operate in British waters.
But the dispute centres on access for small boats of under 12 metres wishing to fish in the UK six-to-12 nautical mile zone.
The government in Paris was angry that the UK originally granted only 12 licences out of 47 applications for smaller vessels, a figure that has now risen to 18.
It says progress must be made in talks today and tomorrow if the UK is to avoid France taking action.
Lord Frost will travel to Paris tomorrow for bilateral discussions on the matter.
Last night Boris Johnson rejected suggestions he was going to change his approach to issuing licences in the face of threats from France.
Asked at a press conference if the UK would adapt this approach, he said: “The answer is no.”
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