The UK and France are heading into a new crisis in their post-Brexit relationship, with each side embroiled in a fisheries dispute that threatens to escalate into an all-out trade war.
Driving the news: The latest flash point comes courtesy of an industry that only accounts for 0.1% of UK GDP, but played a disproportionate role in Britain’s Brexit emphasis on ‘sovereignty And national pride.
- France has accused the United Kingdom to refuse to grant fishing licenses to French boats for political reasons, and last week seized a British trawler for alleged illegal fishing.
- France is now threatening to ban British ships from ports, impose new border controls and potentially increase energy prices for the Channel Islands.
- British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss demanded that the French back down by Tuesday, or face legal action, and suggested that French President Emmanuel Macron was trying to gain nationalist support ahead of the year’s election next.
The last: Macron told reporters at COP26 in Glasgow on Monday that sanctions would be delayed as the two sides continue to negotiate beyond its original midnight deadline.
- Johnson and Macron, including Strained relationship is no secret, met on the sidelines of the G20 Sunday, where each leader said it was up to the other to defuse.
- The meeting took place a day after a leaked letter French Prime Minister Jean Castex called on the European Commission to show unity in the fisheries conflict to demonstrate that “leaving the EU does more damage than staying there”.
The big picture: The Johnson government has made “Global Britain” – the idea that the UK can have a bigger impact on the world stage outside the EU – the centerpiece of its foreign policy.
- But this is the second time that a Brexit dispute threatened to overshadow an international conference hosted by the UK after the “sausage wars“became a focal point of the G7 summit in Cornwall in June.
- Northern Ireland, meanwhile, remains an intractable puzzle: masked men hijacked a bus and torched it on Monday, apparently to protest the failure to meet the deadline for renegotiating the Brexit deal that created a customs border between the territory and the rest of the UK.
The bottom line: The Brexit debate is here to stay. The UK government’s fiscal watchdog said last week that leaving the EU will ultimately be worse for the economy than COVID.