Ideas

Fishing For Trouble? Europe Must Stand Up To Boris Johnson's Bullying

The post-Brexit row of fishing rights is the last straw for not only France, but all of the European Union, who must put an end to the whims of Britain's prime minister, who seems ready to toss out years of negotiations for the divorce between the UK and EU.

Photo of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the COP26 in Glasgow

Boris Johnson speaking at the COP26 in Glasgow

Jean-Francis Pécresse

-OpEd-

PARIS — The fishing war between Paris and London is on, but it would be a mistake to worry too much about it.

Of course, we should not underestimate the deterioration of relations between our two countries, especially since the UK has multiplied unfriendly and even aggressive actions against France. The level of conflict is unprecedented for the contemporary era.


Summoning all the perfidy it's capable of, our British neighbor has worked in secret to cancel France's massive submarine contract with Australia, proving that it has little regard for its former European partner.

Respect the deals that were signed

The UK has been playing the role of the troublemaker in Europe for years: from its desire to obtain as many advantages as possible from the common market, to its decision to withdraw from it without paying exit costs and finally to its arrogant demands in the never-ending Brexit negotiations.

The country is no longer part of the European Union, but the turmoil carries on. This can't go on any longer, especially knowing that the EU has enough to worry about already on its eastern flank.

He can't continue to mock with impunity.

The fishing row represents a great opportunity to show the country's unpredictable and capricious Prime Minister Boris Johnson that he can't continue to mock with impunity the deals that were signed.

Of course, we would not be there if the agreement over fishing rights had been better negotiated in the first place, in order to guarantee, without ambiguity, the right of all French trawlers that had operated before 2021 in the 6-12-mile zone to continue to do so.

Photo of a fisherman unloading a catch of scallops at the harbor in St Helier, Jersey.

A fisherman unloading a catch of scallops at the harbor in St Helier, Jersey.

Ben Birchall/PA Wire/ZUMA

“French bashing” is not a policy

The spat initiated by the British island jurisdiction of Jersey are not worthy of two historic business partners who want to continue to manage their relationship. Especially since the Brexit deal is not really advantageous for our fishermen, who, beyond the 12-mile zone, are forced to give a quarter of their catch back to the UK. Gentlemen of Britain, help yourselves first ...

Today, standing up to the actions of Boris Johnson is not only a necessity to preserve the interests of France, but also of Europe. The European Commission should stand unambiguously behind Paris, or else the next step will be the unilateral exit from the Northern Ireland Protocol, which imposes mandatory custom checks and health controls in the Irish Sea. In other words, the core of Brexit will crumble.

Let's not forget his calamitous management of the COVID health crisis.

A complex and uncomfortable framework has been painstakingly established for the new relationship between the UK and Europe. But at least, a framework exists — and as such, it must be protected from the whims of Mr. Johnson, who fuels nationalist sentiment across the Channel to try to make people forget about his own failures.

And it must be said that these failures include Brexit itself, which deprives the British of many products, and perhaps even their Christmas tree in December; not to mention his calamitous management of the COVID health crisis.

Sausage wars, fights over migrants, fishing rows ... Permanent "French bashing" may be a political strategy, but it will never be political leadership.

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