Boris Johnson seeks to calm fishing row with France ahead of Macron meeting

Emmanuel Macron does not want a conflict with the UK, Boris Johnson has said, as he sought to calm tensions in the cross-Channel post-Brexit fishing dispute.

His comments came after Brexit minister David Frost told the European Commission that the UK is ready to retaliate if France imposes sanctions next week.

Frost told Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic that any move by Paris to block access to its ports by British vessels or to cut electricity supplies to the Channel Islands would put the EU in breach of the post-Brexit trade deal it struck with the UK a year ago.

Britain could step up enforcement and checks on EU boats in its waters, as well as launching formal dispute settlement mechanisms in what would be a significant escalation of post-Brexit hostilities.

France’s ambassador to London, Catherine Colonna, was hauled in to the Foreign Office to explain Paris’s stance to Europe minister Wendy Morton.

And Downing Street confirmed that Mr Johnson will speak with Mr Macron personally about the row in a “brush-by” meeting at the G20 summit in Rome, in what amounts to a distraction from his priority of lobbying other leaders for climate action at the Cop26 summit which he is hosting in Glasgow next week.

Speaking to reporters as he travelled to Rome, the PM shrugged off suggestions that the spat could derail his hopes of securing agreement in Glasgow, telling reporters: “There are bigger fish to fry, everybody knows that.”

And he signalled he will take an emollient tone with Mr Macron in the hope of soothing the bust-up, sparked by French complaints that ships which have historically fished in waters off Jersey and Guernsey are being denied licences following Brexit.

The prime minister lavished affection on France as “one of our best, oldest allies, friends and partners”.

He vowed to do “whatever is necessary to ensure UK interests”, suggesting France is in breach of the Brexit trade agreement.

But he added: “The ties that unite us and bind us together are far stronger than the turbulence that currently exists in the relationship.

“That is what I will say to Emmanuel, who is a friend I’ve known for many years.”

Read More: Boris Johnson seeks to calm fishing row with France ahead of Macron meeting

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