French fishermen disrupt Eurotunnel to protest over licenses
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French fishermen blockaded the port of Calais on Friday, temporarily preventing two ferries carrying trucks and passengers from entering, in protest against the UK’s failure to issue more licences to fish in British waters. In an effort to disrupt trade, several trawlers manoeuvered to force the DFDS and P&O ferries to reduce speed and hold outside the port, a major entry point to the continental market for British goods. The blockade, which lasted 90 minutes, marked an escalation in the post-Brexit row between London and Paris over fishing rights in Britain’s coastal waters.
Speaking to Sky News, a French fisherman said: “We want to be heard, we want the Government to react.
“So far, 11 months after we were promised the licences there was nothing happening.
“I think that is the last solution, we’ve waited until the last minute.
“We’re going to wait, we don’t want to interfere or do anything wrong but now we’ve had enough.
“We hope we’re going to be heard. All we want are licenses, if we get the licences then we’re going to stop.”
He added: “We’re desperate and we’re victims of political strategy.
“We don’t want to be victims anymore, we just want to be respected.”
Britain and the EU agreed to set up a licensing system to grant fishing vessels access to each other’s waters but France says it has not been given the full number it is due, while Britain says only those lacking the correct documentation have not been granted.
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Several trawlers manoeuvered inside the port to hold up the passage of two ferries operated by DFDS and P&O as they approached Calais earlier on Friday, a major entry point to the European market for British goods.
At the Channel Tunnel terminal in nearby Coquelles, trucks, and cars quickly tailed back towards the highway after the fishermen erected barricades of burning wooden pallets and lit smoke canisters.
The fishermen manning the roadblocks said they wanted to see progress by December 10.
“If we don’t get anywhere … believe me, the English will not have a magic Christmas. We’ll ruin the party,” said Jean Michel Fournier, a fisherman from near Boulogne.
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Britain says it is respecting the post-Brexit arrangements while France says Britain is not honouring its word.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain’s position on issuing fishing licences hadn’t changed and London was monitoring the protests.
“We look to the French authorities to ensure the free flow of traffic and trade to ensure the trade is not disrupted,” he added.
France last week said it was still waiting for 150 licences from Britain and the Channel Islands. The dispute focuses on access to territorial water 6-12 miles from the coast.
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