Ports including Calais blocked by French fishermen as post-Brexit fishing rights row escalates

French ports – including Calais – have been blocked off by angry fishermen as the row over fishing rights escalates.

The Jersey-based vessel Normandy Trader was prevented from docking at the port of St Malo in Brittany this morning, while ferries were later stopped from leaving Calais for the UK.

There are also plans for fishermen to block the freight terminal of the Channel Tunnel later today.

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The Normandy Trader was prevented from leaving the French port this morning

Crews stopped the Normandy Trader from docking between 9am and 10am, before similar demonstrations occurred at Ouistreham in Normandy and at Calais.

Six vessels blocked access to the port of Calais for around 90 minutes.

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The row centres around French fishermen demanding the UK issue more licences to fish in British waters than what Westminster says was agreed in the post-Brexit trade deal.

In order for a licence to be granted, fishermen need to be able to show they have worked in UK waters in recent years.

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Some of those on the French side have been unable to provide this evidence – which would also give access to waters around the Crown Dependency of Jersey.

A similar agreement is in operation for British vessels to work in French waters.

Olivier Lepretre, president of the regional fishing committee, said: “The British have access to the European market, while we do not have access to British waters. This is not normal, the British government must respect the agreement.

“This is a symbolic action but if it continues we will show more teeth.”

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French authorities briefly seized a British fishing boat that was in its waters last month, taking it back to one of their ports.

The scallop vessel Cornelis was eventually allowed to leave Le Havre port.

Speaking ahead of today’s action, Gerard Romiti, president of the National Maritime Fisheries Committee, said: “This is our demonstration of the quality and ability of professional fishermen to mobilise in response to the UK’s provocative, contemptuous and humiliating attitude towards them.”

A Downing Street spokesman said the government was “disappointed by threats of protest activity”.

He added: “It will be a matter for the French to ensure that there are no illegal actions and that trade is not affected. We continue to monitor the situation closely.”

It is not the first time French fishermen have sought to take direct action.

In April, they blocked lorries carrying fish from British waters to processing centres in France.

And the British navy dispatched two patrol boats in May when French boats blockaded the Saint Helier harbour in Jersey.

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The tension comes as the UK and French government seek to find a way to address the issues which lead to the 27 Channel deaths on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the Port of Dover said they were aware of the potential for a “limited period of disruption in France”.

They added: “The port will be open for business as normal, and has tried and tested plans in place to deal with temporary interruptions to cross-Channel services should they occur.

“We would encourage any customers travelling to allow some extra time for their journey and check with their chosen ferry operator for the latest updates.”

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