Hit back, Boris! UK must teach Macron harsh lesson on fishing, Widdecombe blasts
Former Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe was speaking as the row over fishing access rumbles on, with Mr Macron postponing on Monday a midnight deadline after which France had threatened to impose a serious of punitive measures on the UK. These could include increased border and sanitary checks on goods from Britain and banning British vessels from some French ports.
Additionally, Scottish-registered trawler the Cornelis Gert Jan is still being detained in the French port of Le Havre, its owner said today, with French authorities demanding a payment of £125,000 to release it.
Miss Widdecombe said the time for talk has past – urging the Prime Minister to take decisive retaliatory measures.
She told Express.co.uk: “I don’t think they are going to deploy gunboats but I would think that for example we could say look, if this is how you are going to treat vessels that are lawfully fishing, we will now do the same to you.
“And we will now reduce your fishing rights by five percent unless you unless you return this ship pronto and let the captain go pronto.
“France is going to blame Britain for everything, and the fact is that 98 percent of previous licences were rebranded so it’s not as if the French was suddenly cut down to nothing.
“But the fact is, these are our waters. And we do have that right if necessary.”
Asked whether the UK Government needed to adopt a more strident tone with the EU, and France in particular, the former Tory MP and minister added: “I think that time has come.
“I think they were quite bright to try diplomatic measures first, that was perfectly reasonable.”
However, she stressed: “I think now they should be saying if you’re not going to let our lawfully licensed trawlers fish, we will not let your lawfully licensed trawlers fish.
“And here are the ones that we are taking off the list.
“We just really need to hit back but we don’t because we never do.”
Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News: “We welcome the fact France has stepped back from the threats it was making last Wednesday.
“We’ve always said we want to de-escalate this and always said we have an ever open door to discuss any further evidence France or the EU might have on any additional vessels they’d like to have licensed.”
He added: “France has clearly taken a decision not to implement some of the decisions they threatened last Wednesday, we very much welcome that.
“But I think there’s going to be a very important meeting on Thursday between Lord Frost and his opposite number, not just on fisheries but a wider range of issues as well.”
Mr Justice also said he understood the Cornelis Gert Jan had been freed following an “administrative confusion”.
However, Andrew Brown, the head of public affairs for Macduff Shellfish, which owns the vessel, denied this was the case.
He said: “Our understanding is that the Cornelis remains held at Le Havre at least until the hearing at Rouen scheduled for tomorrow.”
Officials also admitted that the vessel remained subject to detention by French authorities.
GPS co-ordinates put the Cornelis as remaining in Le Havre on Tuesday afternoon.
The captain of the Cornelis Gert Jan vessel, understood to be an Irish national, was detained in Le Havre during the row and was told he faces a court hearing in August next year.
French authorities allege the dredger did not have a licence, a claim Macduff Shellfish denies.
The EU said UK authorities withdrew the licence on March 1.