French fishermen to blockade port in Brexit protest

French fishermen are expected to blockade ports in northern France on Thursday and Friday in protest over their inability to operate in British waters post-Brexit.

Fishing union chiefs in the Hauts-de-France region of France allege that just 20 per cent of the French fishing fleet has to date been granted licences to continue fishing in Britain’s territorial waters, despite promises from the British government.

Veteran fishermen, Pierre Leprêtre operating out of the Boulogne-sur-Mer port has told reporters he will have to give up fishing soon because he doesn’t have the right yet to fish outside of French waters “and the resource is practically exhausted there”.

The local fishing industry in the French region is over 70 per cent dependent on British waters for traditional catch, and that figure goes as high as 96 per cent for deep-sea fishing.

Trawlermen in the northern region of France claimed only 22 out of 120 vessels have been issued licences. In a statement, the union chiefs said: “The fishermen of Hauts-de-France have shown extreme patience.

“But after being more than conciliatory, they are sounding the alarm bells to draw attention to an economic disaster in the industry.”

The protests would seriously disrupt maritime trade between the UK and the continent, with many British vessels using the ports in northern France to land their catch before it is exported across Europe.

Chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, Jimmy Buchan expressed his anger at the planned blockade.

“It is a sad reflection that the French fishermen want again to impede on other people’s right to make a living,” Buchan said.

“The UK government has already conceded a lot in this negotiation to the point that EU exporters to the UK still don’t have to change anything as they were before 2021. Our industry has been on an expensive, sharp learning curve, which is continuing. There comes a point when the UK government has to stand up for UK citizens.”

A UK government spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the UK “maintains a consistent, evidence-based approach to licensing EU vessels using information supplied by the European Commission.

“We do not recognise the figures that have been shared by the French fishing industry and consider this reaction to be unjustified. Our concerns regarding the planned protest action have been raised directly with the French authorities.”