British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed Friday to defend UK interests in a worsening dispute with France over fishing rights, while emphasising the historical strength of cross-Channel ties.
“We will do whatever is necessary to ensure UK interests,” he told reporters on board his plane to Rome for a G20 leaders@ summit, adding that Britain was ready to take “appropriate action”.
He arrived as the UK was locked in a row over rights for French fishing boats after Brexit, which saw Britain summon the French ambassador.
Johnson is due to hold brief face-to-face talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Rome, and he emphasised Friday his good relations with his counterpart.
“France is one of our best, oldest, closest allies, friends, partners,” he said.
“The ties that unite us, that bind us together are far stronger than the turbulence that currently exists in the relationship. And that is what I will say to Emmanuel, who’s a friend I’ve known for many years.”
The two sides are at loggerheads over licensing rules for EU boats wanting to operate in waters around Britain and the Channel Islands.
France has been incensed by the rejection of some of its vessels by Britain and the self-governing islands of Jersey and Guernsey, which depend on London for defence and foreign affairs.
France has warned that continued denial of licences would lead to retaliatory measures as soon as next week, including time-consuming checks on all incoming goods and a ban on UK vessels landing seafood.
“Obviously we will stand by to take the appropriate action,” Johnson said.
The British leader did not elaborate on how London might respond. Reports said it could start blocking French fishing vessels, but Downing Street declined to comment
The G7 summit in England in June was also marred by a row between Britain and Europe over trade in chilled meat.
“It’s about fish rather than sausages this time. I don’t know if that’s an improvement,” Johnson said.
“But actually, there are bigger fish to fry. Everybody knows that. Emmanuel and everybody knows that.”
© Agence France-Presse