French fishing crews blocked French ports and ferry traffic across the English Channel on Friday to disrupt the flow of goods to the U.K., in a dispute over post-Brexit fishing licenses.
It’s the latest tension point between the neighboring countries, who are also trading blame for not doing enough to prevent the deaths of at least 27 migrants whose boat sank Wednesday off Calais in the choppy waters of the world’s busiest shipping route.
French fishermen are angry at the British government for not granting more licenses to fish in U.K. waters — and angry at their own government for not doing more to defend them.
The fishing industry is economically tiny but symbolically important for both Britain and France.
Friday’s blockades are “a warning shot,” Olivier Lepretre, president of the regional fishing committee, told reporters in Calais.
“The British have access to the European market, while we do not have access to British waters. This is not normal, the British govt must respect the agreement.”
“This is a symbolic action but if it continues we will show more teeth,” Lepretre added, in quotes given to French media.
The fishers are protesting to “respond to the derisive and humiliating attitude of the English,” Gerard Romiti, president of the French fishing committee, told reporters.
“We don’t want handouts, we just want our licenses back. The U.K. must abide by the post-Brexit deal. Too many fishermen are still on the sidelines, ” he added.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. was “disappointed by threats of protest activity.”
Before Brexit, French fishermen could fish deep inside British waters. Now they need to be granted a special license from British authorities to fish in certain areas. Most French boats have received the special licenses. Now the dispute boils down to just a few dozen French licenses that have not been granted by the U.K.