Trawlermen warned they would disrupt the flow of ferries carrying vital goods in response to being shut out of Britain’s fishing grounds. A union baron said Britain’s threat to send gunboats to police the UK’s coastal waters “would mean that we are negotiating things that relate to war”. Downing Street is still claiming a no deal Brexit is the “most likely” outcome for the trade talks.
Dimitri Rogoff, president of Normandy’s regional fisheries committee, claimed the move would see Dutch, Belgian and German ships flocking into French waters.
He said: “If we are deprived of our fishing grounds, we will not watch the British supply the French market.
“There will therefore be blockages to ferries, since this mainly happens by ferries. And on that, we are quite clear and determined.”
The influential fishing chief said it was “inappropriate” for the UK to “flex its muscles” in the post-Brexit trade talks by threatening to use the Navy to deter foreign boats from entering its fishing grounds.
Mr Rogoff added: “We’ve seen this before a long time ago and we hoped never to see it again in this Europe, which is one of sharing resources.
“Now the UK has decided to leave but from there to sending warships, it’s unimaginable.”
His threat came as Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, warned colleagues he was preparing for a big battle over fish as the trade talks enter their final stage.
The Brussels diplomat also hit out at the British threat to use gunboats to police the Channel in a private briefing with MEPs.
He accused British officials of using the media to “destabilise” over four years of Brexit talks.
The Frenchman also claimed Downing Street has taken a harder position on fishing rights during the last few days of the wrangling over a trade agreement.
Mr Barnier said No10 was pushing for a shorter transition period, during which the EU’s generous fishing opportunities in British waters, than it previously promised.
Paris also ramped up its war of words with Boris Johnson’s Government by insisting the UK will be “left weaker” after Brexit.
“You can’t say I’m leaving, I’m independent but at the same time I’ll keep access to one of the richest markets in the world…without at least respecting the rules of this unique market.”
A senior Government source said the deadlock remains “difficult” to break in the trade talks.
The insider said: “Talks remain difficult and we have not made significant progress in recent days, despite efforts by the UK side to bring energy and ideas to the process.
“Like any sovereign country, we must have the right to take our own decisions and to choose regulations that suit the UK.
“We can not sign up to dynamic alignment through the back door. The UK cannot be locked into the EU’s regulatory orbit.
“We have always been absolutely clear that the UK will have control over access to our waters and a better deal for UK fishing communities.
“There is simply no truth in the idea that we have backtracked.
“The inaccurate briefings from the EU side in recent days have made a difficult discussion even more challenging in the short period of time we have left.”