France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune has told Britain that penalising French fishermen in the row over fishing rights will not solve post-Brexit Christmas shortages.
France is infuriated by Britain’s refusal to grant all the licences sought by French boats to access British waters, accusing the UK Government of failing to respect the Brexit deal.
“They made a mess of Brexit. It’s their choice and their failure, not ours… It was a bad choice, we see that today,” Mr Beaune said in an interview with French broadcaster BFM TV on Friday.
“It’s not by badmouthing our fishermen, threatening us every day, being bad players and creating red tape or problems for Europeans, the French, and our fishermen in particular, that you will solve turkey shortages at Christmas.”
The government in Paris has previously suggested that Britain’s imported energy supply could be disrupted in retaliation for a lack of access to UK waters.
Mr Beaune said France could reduce, but not entirely cut, electricity supplies to Jersey as part of “targeted retaliation measures” if Britain continues not to “respect the agreement.”
“Reducing supplies is possible; cutting the power to every Jersey resident this winter – that will not happen,” the minister said.
Mr Beaune said France had asked for 450 fishing licences in the Brexit deal, but had only been granted 275.
“Britain needs us to sell their products, including from fishing, they need us for their energy, they need us for their financial services, they need us for their research centres,” he said.
In all of this, France could reduce its degree of co-operation with the UK, he warned.
Earlier this week, French fishing industry representatives threatened to block the port of Calais and stop cross-Channel exports to the UK in the run-up to Christmas.
French fury was sparked after the Government in London announced last month that it had approved just 12 of the 47 applications it had received from French small boats.
Those denied licences were unable to prove a track record of fishing activity in the six-to-12 nautical mile zone in the years before the UK’s departure from the EU, according to a UK Government spokesman.
The spokesman added that the approach had been “fully in line” with the UK’s commitments in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) agreed as part of the Brexit divorce deal.
The cross-Channel tensions over fishing have been long-running, with earlier rows leading to Navy ships being scrambled to Jersey amid concerns of a blockade of the island.
The French have also previously used the energy supply threat to try to gain ground in the Brexit row.