Brexit: Fishing row could be ‘getting ugly’ says Andy Mayer
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Paris and London have locked horns in recent weeks over post-Brexit rights for French fishermen in British waters. The increasingly bitter argument erupted as the UK approved 12 licences out of 47 applications by small French fishing vessels. Jersey also rejected dozens of applications by French boats and issued temporary licences to some vessels. Now the UK has left the EU, fishermen must be able to demonstrate they have a history of fishing in the Channel Island’s waters.
This week, France attempted to turn up the pressure by setting a November 1 deadline for the UK to approve more licences.
The French maritime minister Annick Girardin said that if Britain failed to welcome more French fishermen by that date, France would respond.
French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly instructed ministers to draw up plans to punish Britain in several areas.
This could include cutting Jersey’s electricity supplies, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Amid the dispute, Dr Paul Smith, an expert in French politics, has issued a damning assessment of the way the Brexit fallout has been handled by Britain’s politicians, whom he labelled “inexperienced” and “mavericks”.
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He claimed the French are looking across the English Channel and thinking “mon dieu”, questioning: “What is going on over there with this, who’s in charge of the show?”
The academic is Associate Professor in French History and Politics at the University of Nottingham.
He told Express.co.uk: “There is a very strong sense in France they’re looking across the Channel and they look at what’s happening in British politics.
“If you look at what’s happened over the last 10 years, we’ve kind of gone through a whole cycle of experienced politicians and emerged with a Government of very inexperienced politicians.”
The expert also highlighted ministers in Mr Johnson’s cabinet, who he said were “inexperienced” although not necessarily unskilled in their posts.
He said: “With someone like Liz Truss. You know, she suddenly becomes your Foreign Secretary and people like [Dominic] Raab and [Rishi] Sunak and so forth.
“So, we’ve kind of chewed up and spat out a lot of good people over Brexit and over all kinds of other issues.
“It doesn’t mean they’re not good at their jobs, but they’re relatively inexperienced.”
Dr Smith was particularly critical of Mr Raab, claiming the politician had been confused about the location of La Reunion and unaware it was a French territory in the Indian Ocean.
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Mr Raab was demoted from Foreign Secretary to Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister in the cabinet reshuffle last month.
He admitted in July that France had been placed on the Government’s COVID-19 amber travel list because of the spread of the Beta variant of the virus in the “Reunion bit of France”.
Dr Smith said: “It doesn’t help when someone like Dominic Raab doesn’t know where La Reunion is.
“When he was Foreign Secretary, he thought it was somewhere in northern France, it’s in the Southern Indian Ocean.
“That doesn’t look good when you’re dealing with experienced politicians, so they’re kind of looking across the Channel and thinking, ‘what’s going on there?’”
“The irony of it is, is that the French always admired the British system for stability, and now they’re looking across the Channel and thinking ‘mon dieu’.”
Dr Smith argued that, from a French perspective, previous British Governments were more predictable.
He said: “At least with previous Prime Ministers on left or right, supported by their civil service, you kind of had something that you kind of knew what you were going to get.
“But now it appears from the French perspective that you have a bunch of mavericks in charge, it’s very difficult.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson sparred with Mr Macron recently as he commented on reports of a French anger over the new AUKUS military partnership between France, the UK and US.
Mr Johnson said: “What I want to say about that is I just think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip [get a grip] about all this and donnez-moi un break [give me a break].”
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