France plans “slowdown” strategy against British trucks in retaliation for fishing line

Trucks – Paul Grover for the Telegraph

France is preparing to implement a strategy of slowing customs controls on shipments to and from Britain before Christmas in a escalation of post-Brexit war on fishing rights, fear those responsible.

Paris will approve a set of planned retaliatory measures on Tuesday that could be triggered if French fishermen do not have better access in British coastal waters.

The Telegraph understands the perspective of French customs officials deliberately challenge cross-Channel trade is a major concern among UK officials.

French fishing leaders are also threatening to block shipments to and from Calais from Saturday morning, unless they no longer receive permits to operate off the British coast.

Jean Castex, the French Prime Minister, will warn EU and UK negotiators – who continued high-stakes talks on post-Brexit fishing licenses on Monday – that they have until midnight Friday to resolve the dispute.

Jersey - Oliver Pinel / AP

Jersey – Oliver Pinel / AP

France is furious that the UK has only approved 15 permits for French small fishing vessels to operate in the area between six and 12 miles off its coast, out of 47 requests

The dispute threatens to plunge Franco-British relations to a new low. Paris and London are also at odds over the migrant crossings of Chanel and the British nuclear submarine Aukus with Australia and the United States, which cut off the French.

Responding to increasing pressure from French trawlers, Mr. Castex will unveil a package of planned reprisals on Tuesday that could be triggered as early as November 1.

This will include reducing energy supplies to the UK and Jersey and blocking the UK fishing fleet from entering French ports.

He is unlikely to get support for hitting UK exports with trade tariffs from the European Commission or EU capitals, which some believe Mr Macron uses as part of his re-election campaign before next year’s presidential poll.

But Paris could order its customs officials to cause backlogs by carrying out more physical checks on shipments between Britain and France, and vice versa.

Annick Girardin - LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP / Getty Images

Annick Girardin – LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP / Getty Images

Businesses could also be slapped with new surcharges for tighter controls at the French border.

Annick Girardin, the French Minister of Maritime Affairs, reassured French fishermen that she “will not give up” until they have obtained more licenses to fish off the British and Jersey coasts.

“We are one week away from the deadline set by France for UK responses,” she said. “I want to give fishermen clear visibility and remind them that the French government is on their side.”

“I want to get my licenses back,” she added, referring to Margret Thatcher’s famous outburst during budget negotiations at an EU summit in 1979.

French officials are more cautious about the prospect of retaliatory measures. One said: “We will have to stay within proportionate sanctions so as not to further affect the already well-deteriorated relationship with the UK.”

Citing the prospect of militant action by the country’s trawlers, the powerful French National Fisheries Committee criticized the slow progress made in the EU and UK “ship-to-ship” negotiations on fishing licenses.

“Negotiations that resumed last Wednesday have resulted in the issuance of a handful of additional licenses at this stage,” the organization said. “The progress made is far too timid and above all far too long. “

Britain insists it is working constructively to help French fishermen prove their status to operate in British waters under the Brexit trade deal.

A government spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with the European Commission and the French government and we remain open to considering further evidence to support the remaining license applications.

“Defra recently granted three more licenses to French vessels under 12 meters following new evidence provided by the Commission.”

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