The Cabinet minister retaliated after France threatened to shut off Britain’s energy supplies if more small boat fishing licences were not approved. He praised the UK’s “very generous” execution of the post-Brexit fisheries agreement and urged a “proportionate” response from Emmanuel Macron.
The French were outraged when the British government stated last month that only 12 of the 47 applications it had received from small French boats had been granted.
The fury was fuelled further when the Jersey government said later that 75 of the 170 licence applications it had received from French boats had been refused.
“The UK depends on our energy exports,” France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune said on local radio yesterday, “they think they can live alone while also beating up on Europe and, given that it doesn’t work, they engage in aggressive one-upmanship.”
Lord Frost responded last night at a Conservative Party fringe event in Manchester, saying that the EU had a pattern of issuing overblown threats to the UK.
He stated, “For all the frustrations of the last 18 months, I can’t think that we as a country have resorted to those sorts of threats.”
“We’ve not made those sort of direct threats to our neighbours.”
“The vaccine export ban earlier this year is another example of where the EU resorts to these sorts of threats quite quickly – and that’s not how we should behave.”
“We don’t, and I don’t see why our neighbours feel they have to.”
In January, Brussels threatened to halt vaccine exports to the UK unless Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to give the EU vaccines intended for Britons.
It was the first big spat between Brussels and London since the EU’s transition phase ended.
The fears were amplified when the EU invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, thereby establishing a hard border on the island of Ireland.
After outrage from both Ireland and the United Kingdom, it backed down just hours later.
Lord Frost said last night that France was being unjust in implying that Britain was failing to provide fishing licences.
He stated, “We have granted 98 percent of the licence applications from EU boats to fish in our waters according to the different criteria in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement, so we do not accept that we are not abiding by that agreement.”
“We have been extremely generous, and the French, focusing in on a small category of boats and claiming we have behaved unreasonably, I think is not really a fair reflection of the efforts we have made.”
He claimed that the French outburst happened despite the fact that the deal was not what the UK desired.
The United Kingdom has agreed to a five-year transition phase that will allow EU vessels to continue to access UK seas.
Lord Frost had tried to negotiate the quick resumption of control over the seas.
He said that Britain “would have liked a different sort of fisheries deal,” but the country was working hard to meet the agreed-upon terms.
“We agreed this deal, and we are implementing it in good faith, so I think it is unreasonable to suggest we are not,” he stated.
“If there is a reaction from France, they will have to persuade others in the EU to go along with it, and it does need to be proportionate.”