British fishermen are facing yet more Brexit woe as their French counterparts blockade a Channel port in protest against new UK bureaucracy.
The French seamen claim their livelihoods are suffering because UK authorities have been too slow to issue licences to fish in British waters.
In response to what they claim amounts to 80 per cent of the French fleet in the northern Hauts-de-France region being left unlicensed, they are holding up British catches arriving by lorry.
“We thought it would be a matter of days. Four months on, we’ve barely moved forwards,” Bruno Margolle, who leads the main fishermen’s cooperative in Boulogne-sur-Mer, told the Reuters news agency.
About 80 fishermen set off flares at Boulogne’s docks, blocked trucks with barricades, and held a sign stating: “You want to keep your waters??? OK ... So, keep your fish!!!”
Some of the delays apparently relate to the fishermen being unable to provide electronic data showing that they had fished in UK waters for five years before the 2016 EU referendum – a requirement they say is onerous and overly bureaucratic.
Further blockades could be disastrous for the UK industry, which is already suffering from the effects of Brexit. Two-thirds of UK-caught fish are exported to the continent, and some seafood exporters say the new border controls are wreaking havoc on their businesses.
However, Downing Street on Friday denied responsibility for the delays in issuing licences to the French fishermen and said the reaction was “unjustified”.
Boris Johnson's official spokesperson told reporters in Westminster: “We take an evidenced-based approach to licensing EU fishing vessels using the information that’s supplied to us by the European Commission.
“We do not recognise the figures that have been shared by the French fishing industry.
“We have issued licences to all vessels that have met the criteria and provided the relevant information, so we consider the reaction to be unjustified.”