FRENCH fishermen will launch a blockade of UK exports to the continent tonight in protest at lost access to our waters – sparking another major Brexit row.
Angry trawlermen are set to besiege the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, near Calais, and have accused No 10 of treating them with “contempt” by shutting their boats out.
They claim only 22 vessels, out of a total of 120 in the region, have been granted permission to enter our 6-12 mile coastal zone since January 1.
But official UK figures show the UK has in fact given licences to 87 boats, and a further 40 are awaiting the green light.
In total, some 730 French trawlers are currently allowed to land catches across all UK waters.
Boris Johnson has called on Emmanuel Macron to step in over the “unjustified” blockade, which will hit British seafood exports.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “The UK maintains a consistent, evidence-based approach to licensing EU vessels using information supplied by the European Commission.
“We do not recognise the figures that have been shared by the French fishing industry and consider this reaction to be unjustified.
“Our concerns regarding the planned protest action have been raised directly with the French authorities.”
British officials will monitor the protest closely and the impact it has on UK businesses.
During the protest, the trawler men are expected to park their vessels across the entrance to the port, meaning UK ships can’t get in.
British and French fishing boats have been involved in skirmishes in the past, including the scallop wars clashes of 2018.
In a fiery statement, the Fishermen of Hauts-de-France campaign group said it was taking action to end an “economic and environmental disaster”.
It said: “There is overexploitation in the French zone, too many ships not being able to venture on the English side like they used to.
“The attitude of the British government is highly contemptuous since they respect neither the agreements nor the commitments.
“The free trade agreement is respected, on the other hand access to waters is not which is deplorable.
“The fishermen of Hauts-de-France have shown extreme patience. But after being more than conciliatory, they are sounding the alarm bells to draw attention to an economic disaster in the industry.”
The protest against No 10 will take place across tonight and tomorrow night, according to the campaigners.
They said it will “above all to denounce the arm wrestling orchestrated by HMG which shows bad faith, does not keep any of its promises, and whose incompetence and lack of preparation also affects British professionals who are struggling to export”.
The group added: “This accumulation of problems is suffocating and it condemns not only the fishing industry but also professionals in the air-fisheries sector in Hauts-de-France.”
Fisheries was one of the most hard-fought parts of last year’s Brexit negotiations, with talks going right down to the wire.
Under the deal Britain will take back complete control over which EU boats can enter our waters from mid-2025.
There will be a five-and-a-half year transition period, during which Brussels will gradually hand back a quarter of its current catch to UK vessels.