British border guards in Calais may be blocked over fish war

British border guards could be stopped from checking for migrant stowaways in France unless London backs down in its Brexit fish war with Paris, it has been warned.

Jean-Pierre Pont, MP for the Pas-de-Calais county, said the Touquet treaty could be revoked because the French government had to go “all the way” to stop its fishermen taking “the law into their own hands”.

The 2003 treaty effectively moved the British border on to French soil. It prevents many migrants from reaching UK shores, where they can claim asylum, and stops them in France. Either side can revoke the border treaty but there is a two-year period before it can be cancelled.

Mr Pont, an MP for Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche party said: “As for Le Touquet, I think it could go as far as threatening to revoke it.”

“They are all furious and prepared to do everything to get the Brexit accords respected,” Mr Pont added after attending virtual talks with Annick Giradin, the minister of the seas and Clement Beaune, France’s Europe minister.

“When there are agreements, one must respect them all. We would be happy to continue with Le Touquet as long as the UK respects the Brexit deals and gives what it has promised.”

Paris is under pressure from the fishing industry ahead of next year’s presidential election, after Britain rejected all but 12 of 47 applications for small EU boats to operate in UK waters.

Jean Castex, the French prime minister, told parliament that Paris was ready to question all of its bilateral accords with the UK as part of its retaliation, which is expected to be announced in the second half of October.

“We will question… if necessary the bilateral cooperation that we have with the UK in multiple areas,” Mr Castex said on Wednesday.

In July, the UK agreed to pay France £54m as part of a deal to tackle the rise in Channel crossings, which also included improved intelligence sharing.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, said: “If they break the agreement it’s very simple, we shouldn’t pay them any money. We should just say very calmly stop behaving like children. It was very clear at the time the trade deal was signed how the licences would work.”

The French government has made no explicit threat to the Touquet treaty yet but has promised to retaliate at both national and European level.

It has demanded the European Commission begin punitive action that could ultimately hit UK fish exports with tariffs or shut Britain out of the EU energy market.

Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to renegotiate the Touquet treaty or scrap it during his 2017 successful bid to become French president. He later secured more UK funding for border security in talks with Theresa May.

Christelle Morançais, president of the regional council of the Pays-de-la-loire, called on Paris to “do everything possible to defend the legitimate interests of French fishing”.

Olivier Lepretre, head of the powerful fishing committee for the northern Hauts-de-France region, said: “The blocking of the port of Calais and exports to the United Kingdom for the period leading up to Christmas is an option.”


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