French fishermen block ports and Channel Tunnel lorries in Brexit protest

French fishermen on Friday staged blockades at three ferry ports and the freight entrance for the Channel Tunnel in a day of action to protest at the post-Brexit fishing rights granted by Britain.

French fishermen block ports and Channel Tunnel lorries in Brexit protest
Fresh fishing vessels block the entrance to the Calais port. Photo: Bernard Barron/AFP

The fishermen used cars and vans to stage a two-hour blockade on the A16 motorway, blocking freight traffic heading towards England via the Channel Tunnel, while others used their boats to blockade the ferry ports at Saint-Malo, Calais and Ouistreham. 

The protests were over the ongoing dispute over post-Brexit fishing licences.

Boats blocked the Saint-Malo port in the morning – although did not cause disruptions as all ferried had earlier been cancelled due to bead weather – before moving to Calais and then Ouistreham.

Vehicles moved into position on the A16 at around 2pm before the blockade was lifted at 4pm – traffic did not come to a complete standstill in the affected areas.

The regional chief of the CNPMEM fishing union, Olivier Lepretre, said the action was intended to “put pressure on the British government”, and threatened other actions including on products imported from the UK.

“The fishermen are demanding an immediate resolution to the dispute with the UK over the interpretation of the Brexit agreement,” Gérard Romiti, the president of the national fisheries committee, told Le Figaro newspaper on Thursday.

“Our patience has its limits, it has been only too well tested.”

The granting of post-Brexit fishing licences to around 150 French fishermen to fish around the Channel Islands and in the inner waters off the British coastline has become a fraught political issue involving the British, French and Jersey governments, as well as the EU.

The European Commission has asked London to settle the issue by December 10th.

READ ALSO ANALYSIS: Macron’s dilemma over Franco-British fishing spat

“We don’t want handouts, we just want our licenses back. The UK must abide by the post-Brexit deal. Too many fishermen are still in the dark,” said Romiti.

“We have been waiting with bated breath for 11 months. The patience of professionals has limits. We hope this warning shot will be heard,” he said, refusing to rule out further actions in the future.

France had threatened to ban British boats from unloading their catches at French ports and to subject all British imports to inspections.

President Emmanuel Macron then said France would hold off imposing the measures to give dialogue a chance, but French officials have insisted that all options remain on the table.

Talks between France’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune and Britain’s Brexit minister David Frost have yet to yield a breakthrough.

Under a deal agreed by Britain and the EU late last year, European fishing vessels can continue to ply UK waters if they operated there in the past.

But Paris says dozens of French boats have had their applications to fish the UK’s rich waters rejected, an assessment strongly contested by London.

The total volumes affected are tiny in terms of overall France-UK bilateral trade.

But the issue has contributed to growing post-Brexit strains between London and Paris, whose relationship will now also be tested by their response to Wednesday’s disaster in the Channel that cost 27 lives.

Member comments

  1. Could be counter-productive . My understanding is that any boat pictured damaging UK trade will have any current licence cancelled and be barred from any future licence.

    1. Good. I think a good line in the sand would be revoking all licences in the event of continuing illegal blockades.

      1. and the French then stop all fish from being unloaded in France where 80% of its catch goes and ban all UK boats from entering French waters. It’s playground politics played by playground politicians. Seen so many interviews with fishermen Brit and French getting totally pissed off with these political games . They are all on the same side.

        1. And UK provides the principal market for French wine . By your reckoning that shouldn’t be allowed to continue either.

          1. The principal market for French wine is France. The wines exported to the UK are mainly champagne and expensive bordeaux and burgundies. I spent the first 57 years of my life in the UK and knew very few people who drank wine. It is a luxury for the ‘better off’ Most people’s staple is beer. Now, do you think the UK’s elite would welcome a ban on the top end wines?

      2. What utter balderdash. After owning trawlers, through a family company, on both sides of le manche. All these people want to do is fish in the area they have for generations. There has always been a friendly rivalry, but now it’s being fueled by politicians and the British guttersnipe press into something it never has been. These fishermen are fighting to put food on their tables. Wouldn’t you do the same?

        1. You need to catch up Boggy. UK is no longer part of the Common Fisheries Policy. The criteria for getting a licence is set out in the annexes to the Trade and Co-operation Agreement and according to Jersey there’s about 100 French fishermen just trying it on. In any event, come 2026, there will be no licenses issued and between now and then a 25% cut in EU catch quotas. It’s the new reality. The UK fishing industry paid the price for joining the EU and the French fishing industry will pay the price for the UK leaving. C’est la vie.

  2. If there is a legal basis for such an action, the UK can do this. But without an existing legal arrangement you can’t just invent sanctions and punishments on the go. Rule of law, and such, you know.

    1. Protest and demonstration is fine. Interruption of trade and obstruction is criminal and has to be punished. If the French State co-operates with the fishermen then they will be in breach of the UK’s T&C Agreement with the EU and the UK can claim damages.

  3. So, it seems that it’s ok for Brit(english) fishermen to fish in French waters but not for French fishermen to fish in English waters. Surprised or not !I’m hoping to spend Christmas with my daughter and grandchildren in England but if the English continue with their stance although I and my wife will be very sad, I will still back the French fishermen. Brit in France.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.