No 10 denies Johnson-Macron agreement to end fishing war

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman made clear the UK did not recognise the claims that there had been an agreement.

No 10 denies Johnson-Macron agreement to end fishing war PA Ready

Downing Street has denied Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron have reached an agreement to de-escalate their increasingly bitter dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights.

Following a “brush-by” meeting between the two leaders in the margins of the G20 summit in Rome, French officials were reported as saying they had agreed to try to resolve their differences.

However, in a briefing for British journalists, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman made clear the UK did not recognise the claims that there had been an agreement.

“I have seen the same reporting,” the spokesman said.

“It will be for the French to decide if they want to step away from the threats they have made in recent days about breaching the Brexit (trade) agreement,” the spokesman said.

French officials have warned they will bar UK fishing boats from some ports and tighten customs checks on lorries entering the country with British goods from Tuesday unless more licences are granted for their small boats to fish in British.

Britain has said the threats represent a breach of the post-Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) struck between the UK and the EU and warned it could trigger the disputes mechanism under the terms of the deal.

Johnson’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister reiterated his deep concern over the rhetoric emanating from the French government in recent days, including the suggestion by the French prime minister that the UK should be punished for leaving the EU.

“He expressed his hope that the French government would de-escalate this rhetoric and withdraw their threats.”

There is frustration on the British side that the dispute between the two sides has at times overshadowed the build-up to crucial international climate change talks at the Cop26 summit which begins in Glasgow on Monday.

The row follows claims by the French that dozens of French boats have had their applications to fish in UK and Channel Islands’ waters, claims which the British have strongly contested.

In the run-up to the meeting between the two leaders there was little sign of compromise on either side.

France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune tweeted that Paris “stands ready to implement proportionate and reversible measures from November 2, as we have announced repeatedly since last April”.

He insisted the measures were “fully in line” with the TCA.

His warning came after the UK’s Brexit minister Lord Frost said the entire EU would be in breach of the agreement if France carried out its threats.

The Conservative peer, in a series of tweets on Saturday, said the UK was “actively considering” triggering legal proceedings included in the TCA if there was no resolution to the issue.

“These threats, if implemented on November 2, would put the EU in breach of its obligations under our trade agreement,” he tweeted.

The Government was particularly angered by a letter from French prime minister Jean Castex to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, in which he said the UK should be shown “it causes more damage to leave the EU than to stay in”.

Johnson raised the letter in a meeting with Mrs von der Leyen in the margins of the G20 on Saturday.

Johnson said he was “puzzled” by the letter.

Speaking at a G20 post-summit press conference, he said: “I must say I was puzzled to read a letter from the French Prime Minister explicitly asking for Britain to be punished for leaving the EU.

“I just have to say to everybody I don’t believe that that is compatible either with the spirit or the letter of the Withdrawal Agreement or the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”

The wrangle over fishing access escalated this week after French authorities detained a Scottish-registered scallop dredger, accusing it of fishing without a licence.

The captain of the Cornelis Gert Jan vessel, understood to be an Irish national, has been told to face a court hearing in August next year.

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