French fishermen have blockaded the port of Calais, temporarily preventing two ferries carrying trucks and passengers from entering, in protest against the United Kingdom’s failure to issue more licences to fish in British waters.
In an effort to disrupt trade, several trawlers manoeuvred to force the DFDS and P&O ferries to reduce speed and hold outside the port, a major entry point to the continental market for UK goods.
The blockade, which lasted 90 minutes, marked an escalation in the post-Brexit row between officials in London and Paris over fishing rights in the UK’s coastal waters.
The UK says any licences that are being withheld lack the correct documentation to issue them.
The two ferries outside the port on Friday reduced their speed until their path was clear, the MarineTraffic app showed.
The protest then shifted to the Channel Tunnel where the fishermen held up goods moving to and from the UK through the Channel Tunnel rail link.
Dover to Calais is the shortest sea route between the UK and the European Union – just 37km – and has been one of the UK’s main arteries for European trade since the Middle Ages.
Before Brexit and the pandemic, 1.8 million trucks per year were routed through Calais.
Earlier in the day, fishermen blocked a small British cargo, the Normandy Trader, from docking in the Brittany port of Saint-Malo.
France says Jersey, a British Crown Dependency, has also failed to issue licences due to its fishermen under a post-Brexit deal.
The one-hour Saint-Malo protest and the larger action further east along France’s coast risk reigniting a dispute between the two countries over a mutual licensing system for fishing vessels.
They are also embroiled in a row over cross-Channel migration.
With the UK’s exit from the EU, the two sides agreed to set up a licensing system for granting fishing vessels access to each other’s waters.
Officials in Paris say the UK and the Channel Island of Jersey, a British crown dependency, are not honouring the agreement.
The UK says it is respecting the post-Brexit arrangements.