Recent negotiations have been launched to find an agreement between Britain and France in the dispute over fishing permits, as the head of the ports of Calais and Boulogne spoke of a disaster if Paris goes through its threats to block trade.
Jean-Marc Puissesseau said he had already received instructions to stop British fishermen from unloading in Boulogne from Tuesday, while the border authorities in Calais would enforce stricter controls on lorries with goods.
“It will be a drama, it will be a disaster,” he said. “It will be chaos in your country because the trucks will not cross, it will be chaos in the ports … It has reached a ridiculous point, I would say.
“I hope the British and [the French] find an agreement, we find a solution to get out of this point. I know there will be some discussions over the weekend, so I really hope so. “
Boris Johnson has said Britain will retaliate if cross-channel freight is disrupted due to the dispute.
Speaking at the G20 summit in Rome on Saturday, Johnson confirmed that Britain could consider formal action under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement over alleged French breaches of its terms, and reiterated its willingness to take the necessary steps.
Asked if he would rule out triggering such an action next week, Johnson told Sky News: “No, of course not, I do not rule it out. But what I think everyone wants is cooperation between the European allies.”
During a round of interviews at the Colosseum in the Italian capital, he said: “If there is a breach of the Treaty, or we believe there is a breach of the Treaty, then we will do what is necessary to protect British interests. . “
Asked if he thought there had been a rift, he said this was likely, but stressed his desire that the dispute should not overshadow climate change efforts being discussed at the G20 ahead of next week’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow.
“I’m worried there may be. I’m looking at what’s going on at the moment and I think we need to fix it, but it’s honestly small beer, trivial, compared to that threat. against humanity we face, ”he said.
The focus of the series is the lack of the number of licenses granted to French vessels in coastal waters in the United Kingdom and Jersey, a British crown dependency.
The UK has approved only 16 out of 47 applications for French boats to operate in the UK’s coastal waters. A further 14 applications are pending, where evidence of activity in these waters was limited, but 17 applications had been withdrawn by French applicants due to “poor evidence”.
Of major concern to the French authorities is that 55 boats applying to fish in the waters off Jersey have been rejected by the island’s government due to lack of evidence that they have been fishing there for 10 days in one of the most recent three years.
Officials from the European Commission, Britain, France and Jersey sought to find a way out of the crisis in negotiations on Saturday. Paris has said it will gradually increase customs and sanitary controls on freight, tighten controls on lorries entering and leave France and ban trawlers from landing their catch in French ports if the conflict is not resolved.
The French government is also considering raising the price of nuclear energy supplied to Jersey through submarine cables.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex has written to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen seeking further EU action on top of the announced unilateral measures, but sources in Brussels said they hoped to avoid such an escalation.
Authorities in Jersey and the United Kingdom have repeatedly said they are open to further evidence from applicants to have operated in their waters.
It is understood that the latest negotiations focus on what level of data can be accepted and whether additional flexibility can be found to avert problems in ports on Tuesday.
In an interview with the Financial Times, French President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet Johnson at the G20 summit in Rome on Sunday, said the series was a test of Britain’s credibility.
“Make no mistake, it is not just for Europeans but all their partners,” he said. “Because when you spend years negotiating a treaty and then a few months later do the opposite of what was decided on the aspects that suit you the least, it is not a big sign of your credibility.
“We must respect each other and respect the word that has been given.”
Puisseseau told the BBC it was important to find a deal. “Do not you think we have enough problems with the virus? We lost in the port of Calais last year due to the virus, a turnover of 30 million euros, and this year we will again lose 20 million euros,” he said.
“It’s € 50 million lost due to a virus and now we will be obliged to bring control into our port? I tell you, this economic problem with fishermen is a drop of water in the sea.”