French fishermen begin Brexit protests by blocking boats

French Fishermen

French fishermen blocked the path of the Normandy Trader boat at the port of Saint-Malo on Friday 26 November as they started a day of protest over post-Brexit fishing licenses. Red flares lit up the air as they expressed their anger over Britain’s failure to provide more fishing licences since Britain left the EU. 

The move will be followed later by a planned blockade by other French fishermen of the Channel Tunnel and the port of Calais. The protests were agreed upon at a meeting on Thursday as a demonstration of what they said was the “contemptuous and humiliating” approach of the UK since Brexit was finalised. 

Saint-Malo was due to be blocked between 8am and 9am with further protests at Calais port between 12pm and 1.30pm while the A16 access route to Eurotunnel was due to be blocked between 2pm and 6pm. There will also be similar actions in Ouistreham on Friday afternoon.

The president of the national maritime fisheries committee, Gerard Romiti, told reporters that they were only asking that the trade and cooperation deal organised last Christmas Eve be honoured. He said the protest was “legitimate” and was to prevent “British bad faith” from prevailing.

“We want the agreement signed on 24 December 2020 to be respected,” Romiti said. “We don’t want handouts, we just want our licences back. The UK must abide by the post-Brexit deal. Too many French fishermen are still in the dark.

“We have been waiting with bated breath for 11 months. The patience of professionals has limits. We hope this warning shot will be heard,” he said, refusing to rule out further actions in the future. “If the question of the licences may seem minor at the European level to some, it’s part of a much bigger picture,” he said. “The long-term relationship with the UK depends on the resolution of this issue”, he added, indicating the dispute should be seen within the wider context of Britain’s strained relationship with the EU.

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Written by

Claire Gordon