Dispute over Fishing Rights, Beginning of Frozen UK-French Relations

Tensions between the UK and France have been rising in recent months, especially since the UK withdrawal from the EU. One side threatens the other with power outages, and the other creates difficulties for the opposition on the issue of fishing rights.

British-French Relations at their Worst

There has never been a time when relations between the two countries have been this bad. Following Brexit, the historical relationship between the two sides across the channel has become even more difficult. It is often heard in Paris that the British are crazy. In contrast, British conservative newspapers despise French President Emmanuel Macron as another Napoleon.

Macron and Johnson, however, seem to be getting along. But this is not enough in diplomatic relations and even less so in bilateral ties. Recently, even Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune, as Macron’s confidant, threatened the UK with retaliation in the fisheries dispute.

Fishing Rights and Rising Tensions

One of the issues in the dispute between the two countries is that of fishing in British waters. The French government spokesman Gabriel Attal recently told a news conference that the British government’s position on the disputed fisheries agreement was “unacceptable”. France would retaliate against the UK if London continued to violate the post-Brexit fisheries agreement.

The French official added that the French government and the fishing associations had always provided the documents requested by the UK government and had been very tolerant in this “anxious situation”. “It’s a new refusal by the British to implement the conditions of the Brexit agreement despite all the work we have done together,” said France’s maritime minister Annick Girardin. The Brexit agreement stipulates that European fishers will still access some British waters if they have a permit.

Retaliatory Actions on the French Side

Disputes over fishing rights in the channel and the island of Jersey escalated in June, with France threatening retaliation over London’s refusal to allow French fishers in. France has announced that it will cut off power to Jersey. Jersey receives 95% of its electricity from three submarine cables from an area 25 km from France. The UK government announced at the time that, as tensions were escalating with France over fishing rights in the waters, two Royal Navy ships had been sent to Jersey as a “precautionary measure”. France also sent two patrol boats to the island.

The Impact of Fisheries on Brexit Negotiations

The issue of fishing rights was one of the obstacles to the agreement in the negotiations. The local government of Jersey had asked French fishers to obtain a permit to continue operating in the area under the Brexit deal. French anglers, however, believe that the licences issued by the authorities of the island of Jersey deprive them of their rights. The island of Jersey is one of the islands in the channel located 14 miles off the coast of France. These islands, although not part of the UK, are represented by the UK government.

TENSIONS over Illegal Immigration

Another controversial issue between France and the UK, which has intensified in the post-Brexit period, is that of illegal immigration from France to the UK through the channel. France recently stressed the need for a refugee agreement with the UK to resolve disputes over asylum seekers crossing the channel, calling it one of Paris’ priorities during its rotating presidency of the EU. The growing number of immigrants crossing the channel from France to the UK, especially in the post-Brexit period, has exacerbated tensions between London and Paris. France has called on the UK government to live up to its promises and provide the necessary resources to combat migrant smuggling off the coast of France.

Ineffective Agreement on Illegal Immigrants

Under an agreement reached with France in July, the UK agreed to finance border security in France at around 62.7 million euros ($73.8 million) this year and next. Of course, in September, the UK government threatened that it would not give the money to Paris because of the high influx of immigrants from France. In a recent Twitter message, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that stopping crossings for migrants would be an absolute priority for the UK.

French-British Dispute over Military Issues

There are also differences between the two nuclear powers and the UN veto in the military field, with both sides seeking a military leadership role in Western Europe. These conflicts have intensified in the post-Brexit period. France accused Joe Biden of stabbing Paris in the back shortly after the United States, UK and Australia announced a joint security-military agreement. Following the cancellation of Australia’s major contract with Paris to purchase submarines and signing a new contract with Washington, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian recently announced that his country had recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations. The new agreement, called Aukus, will look at the three countries over 18 months to see how Australia can achieve the best nuclear submarine technology faster in a more practical way than with current conventional submarines. With this agreement, France’s $66 billion contract with Australia to develop nuclear submarines has been cancelled.

Loss of Trust Between France and the UK

Trust between the two countries is shallow. France not only distrusted the UK, it no longer trusts it at all. Improvements in relations between the two countries are rarely predictable, and new disputes over the Northern Ireland Protocol between the EU and the UK exacerbate London-Paris relations.

With the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, a new round of disputes between this country and other EU member states began. France and the UK, which once had strategic relations, are now facing a variety of tensions in the post-Brexit period and there are no apparent prospects for improving the situation. As UK’s tensions with EU member states escalate after leaving the bloc, it will likely face trade sanctions and a trade war with the other side; an issue that could increase economic pressures on the British and put those currently facing a crisis of fuel and food shortages in jeopardy and endanger their lives.

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