France threatens to punish UK over fishing row, urges EU to do same

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A French government minister has threatened the disruption of energy supplies to the UK, as well as cross-Channel traffic, following London's decision to severely limit licenses accorded to French fishermen, adding that France would urge reprisals at an EU level, including the proposition of limiting access for UK students to the  bloc's educational institutions. 

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France is trying to persuade the European Union to retaliate against Britain over what it sees as Boris Johnson’s use of fishing permits to gain leverage in the migration crisis, reports The Times.

Paris is likely to ask for curbs on British fish imports and restrictions on UK students who want to study in the bloc.

Annick Girardin, France’s minister for the sea, has suggested that railway links could be dragged into the fishing war too, hinting at blocking Channel tunnel freight and passenger traffic.

She said that energy could be another weapon in the hands of France, which exports electricity to the UK. EdF, the state electricity giant, also has significant assets in Britain, producing about 20 per cent of the country’s generating capacity. French analysts said it was unlikely that their government would cut Britain’s power supply, however.

Girardin has told fishermen that she will set out her plan for reprisals next week after the UK approved 12 of 47 requests from French boats to be allowed to fish between six and 12 nautical miles off Britain’s shores, and 50 of 169 applications to fish in waters off Jersey.

Although Girardin is the public voice The Times understands that the riposte is being organised in the Élysée Palace by President Macron and his advisers.

Girardin told the Europe 1 radio station that “a calendar of actions” would be presented “with a European action, a national action, obviously aimed at the British and also at our Jersey neighbours”. She concluded in English: “I want the licences back” in reference to Margaret Thatcher’s famed outburst during budget talks at an EU summit in 1979: “I want my money back.”

Read more of this report from The Times.

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