The French protests are over post-Brexit fishing arrangements
The fishermen held aloft red flares as they circled their boats outside Saint-Malo to block the vessel’s path – a prelude to a planned blockade later on Friday of Calais and the Channel Tunnel, both major transport hubs for trade between Britain and continental Europe.
“We’re hostage to politics,” said Pascal Lecler, one of the fishermen in St Malo. “It doesn’t make us happy to be here, but it can’t go on.”
Mr Lecler said some 150 French boats were still waiting for London to grant them licences to fish in British waters.
Gerard Romiti, Chairman of France’s powerful National Fisheries Committee, sa: “This is to demonstrate how professional fishermen come together in response to the UK’s provocative, contemptuous and humiliating attitude towards them.”
Friday’s blockades were due to last for up to two hours each, said Mr Romiti, who said they should be viewed as “warning shots”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “We are disappointed by threats of protest activity.
“It will be a matter for the French to ensure that there are no illegal actions and that trade is not affected.”
Before Brexit, French fishermen had free rights to fish in UK waters under EU law and only had to apply to their own government for a licence.
But earlier this year the new Brexit Agreement came into force, meaning French fishermen now need to apply to the UK for a licence.
All vessels that fished in UK waters “for at least four years between 2012 and 2016” should be granted the same level of access until at least 2026, when it will be up to the UK and France to negotiate new deals.
The UK is asking French boats to provide tracking and fishing quota data for those years to qualify for a permit.
The French have protested, saying smaller vessels under 12 metres do not collect this data and are being unfairly punished.