It appears the Brexit fisheries dispute is flaring back up. After what has been a rocky year of near-confrontations between France (which is leading the EU parties concerned about access to nominally "British" fisheries) and the UK over fisheries access, a key compromise included in the UK-EU post-Brexit trade treaty.
For those who need a reminder, the EU's fishing industry is entirely dependent on access to British waters, as we recently explained.
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On Friday, French fishermen blockaded the port of Calais, temporarily preventing two ferries carrying trucks and passengers from entering, in protest against the UK's failure to issue more licences to fish in British waters. In an effort to disrupt trade, several trawlers maneuvered to force the DFDS and P&O ferries to reduce speed and hold outside the port, a major entry point to the continental market for British goods.
It might not seem like much, but the blockade, which lasted 90 minutes, marked an escalation in the post-Brexit row between London and Paris over fishing rights in Britain's coastal waters. Ever since the deal was struck, British PM Boris Johnson has raised fears that he might not comply.
Britain says any licences that are being withheld lack the correct documentation to issue them, Reuters reports.
The two ferries outside the port on Friday reduced their speed until their path was clear, the MarineTraffic app showed. Afterward, the protest shifted to the Channel Tunnel where the fishermen held up goods moving to and from Britain through the Channel Tunnel rail link.
Before Brexit and the pandemic, 1.8M trucks per year were routed through Calais.
Earlier in the day, fishermen blocked a small British cargo, the Normandy Trader, from docking in the Brittany port of Saint-Malo. France says Jersey, a British Crown Dependency, has also failed to issue licences due to its fishermen under a post-Brexit deal.
While we are sure the British would love to dismiss this latest flareup, according to Reuters, the one-hour Saint-Malo protest and the larger action further east along France's coast could risk reigniting a dispute between Britain and France over the mutual licensing system for fishing vessels.
Put another way: this definitely isn't the best time for the British to be confronted with the next vaccine variant threat.