Following a meeting between heads of state Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron, the British Government has said that its position in the conflict over post-Brexit fishing rights remains unchanged.
“If the French Government wishes to come forward with how they wish to de-escalate the threats they have made, then we will absolutely welcome them,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman told journalists at the G20 summit in Rome. “Our stance has not changed,” he added.
France feels the United Kingdom does not grant enough licenses to its fishing fleet in British waters. It has promised that, if the situation does not improve, it will ban British fishing vessels from unloading cargo in French ports and clamp down on customs inspections on trucks.
Tensions increased ahead of the G20 summit, with London threatening to impose tough inspections on European vessels plying its waters if Paris carried out its threats and to unleash a dispute-settlement procedure.
Johnson and the French president met alone for half an hour on Sunday morning on the fringes of the G20 summit in Rome. They discussed the UN Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, tensions between the UK and the EU over Northern Ireland, and the issue of fishing.
The stance taken later on Sunday by the United Kingdom differed completely from an earlier French report on the discussions. Following the Sunday morning meeting, the French President’s office had reported that the two leaders had decided to work on “practical measures” towards de-escalating the fishing dispute.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the UK would continue to examine the applications by French boats for fishing licenses based on data and not threats, adding that London was willing to work with the French Government and the fishermen who have the required papers.
According to the formal account of the Johnson-Macron meeting published by the UK Government, Prime Minister Johnson “reiterated his deep concern over the French Government’s rhetoric in recent days, including a suggestion by the French President that the UK should be punished for leaving the EU.”
“He expressed his hope that the French Government would withdraw their threats,” Downing Street stated.
The UK Government had been particularly angered by a letter from French Prime Minister Jean Castex to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in which the French Prime Minister stated that “it is essential to show clearly to the European public that compliance with the commitments is not negotiable and there is more damage to leaving the union than staying there.”