No deal: Downing Street denies accord with France over fishing rights

Downing Street has denied Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron have reached an agreement to de-escalate their increasingly bitter dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights.

The UK and France have only two days left to resolve their increasingly fractious differences over fishing rights before Paris’ imposed deadline to introduce port restrictions and border checks.

French officials have warned that it will bar UK fishing boats from some ports and tighten customs checks on lorries entering the country with British goods from Tuesday unless more licences for small boats to fish in British waters are granted.

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The wrangle over fishing access escalated after French authorities detained a Macduff-registered scallop dredger, accusing it of fishing without a licence.

Scottish-operated trawler Cornelis Gert Jan tied up in Le Havre's harbour (Picture: Sameer al-Doumy/AFP via Getty Images)Scottish-operated trawler Cornelis Gert Jan tied up in Le Havre's harbour (Picture: Sameer al-Doumy/AFP via Getty Images)
Scottish-operated trawler Cornelis Gert Jan tied up in Le Havre's harbour (Picture: Sameer al-Doumy/AFP via Getty Images)

The captain of the Cornelis Gert Jan vessel has been told to face a court hearing in August next year.

Following a “brush-by” meeting between the two leaders in the margins of the G20 summit in Rome, French officials were reported as saying they had agreed to try to resolve their differences.

However, in a briefing for British journalists, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman made clear the UK did not recognise the claims that there had been an agreement.

“I have seen the same reporting,” the spokesman said.

“It will be for the French to decide if they want to step away from the threats they have made in recent days about breaching the Brexit (trade) agreement,” the spokesman said.

Britain has said the threats represent a breach of the post-Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement struck between the UK and the EU.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister reiterated his deep concern over the rhetoric emanating from the French government in recent days, including the suggestion by the French prime minister that the UK should be punished for leaving the EU.

“He expressed his hope that the French government would de-escalate this rhetoric and withdraw their threats.”

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“So we are actively considering launching dispute settlement proceedings as set out in Article 738 of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).”

The row has threatened to boil over as Brexit minister Lord Frost accused France of a “pattern” of behaviour against Britain".

The Prime Minister met with the European Union’s top official, Ursula von der Leyen, in person while in Rome for the G20 summit to express his “concern” over France’s behaviour.

In an escalation of the dispute, Lord Frost warned Brussels that the entire bloc will be in breach of the post-Brexit free trade deal terms with Britain if France carries out its threats.

The Conservative peer, in a series of tweets on Saturday, said the UK was “actively considering” triggering legal proceedings included in the trade agreement to solve the issue.

He said: “These threats, if implemented on November 2, would put the EU in breach of its obligations under our trade agreement.

A letter from French prime minister Jean Castex to European Commission president Ms von der Leyen, in which he said the UK should be shown “it causes more damage to leave the EU than to stay in”, has sparked fury in London.

Cabinet minister Lord Frost said the comments were “very troubling and very problematic”, especially with “highly sensitive” negotiations currently underway with Brussels in an attempt to find a solution to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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