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.
“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.