LONDON – At first glance, the worst dispute that erupted last week between United Kingdom It is France It revolved around the fishing rights of a few dozen French tugboats sailing off the island of Jersey into British waters. As often happens between neighbors, the roots of rivalry run very deep.
The UK and France have been at loggerheads since Britain’s exit from the European Union two years ago. They discussed the safety and security of the British Corona virus vaccine An undersea alliance that unites the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, But set aside angry France. At one point, the fishing turmoil prompted both men to send naval vessels to Jersey.
Domestic politics plays a role. According to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the launch of the cross-channel controversy has attracted his Brexit support base and is loudly distracting during fuel and food shortages. For French President Emmanuel Macron, the tensions will be useful for him to run for re-election in France as he faces a challenge from the nationalist right.
Allegations of intimidation and bad faith may also provide an excuse to terminate the trade agreement negotiated with Britain. European union To Northern Ireland – Johnson and Macron have been at loggerheads since they fought over sausages at a summit in Cornwall last June.
At its heart, the conflict that diplomats say is the most bitter they can remember is about who will write the first draft of history: France is determined to show that Brexit did not work; The UK is eager to show that yes.
“It’s more than a fish,” said Peter Ricketts, the former British ambassador to France. “It’s basically more about Brexit.”
France sends a message, reacting very strongly to the UK’s refusal to comply with the fisheries rules in its post – Brexit agreement with Brussels. London Leaving the European Union would not be free, he said.
“You can not get the same benefits if you are not in the EU,” Ricketts said.
At the same time, Brexit severed ties between Britain and France as partners in the European program, increased their competitiveness in their relationship and increased the impetus to use each other as an opposite weight.
Sylvie Berman, who recently served as France’s ambassador to the UK, compared Brexit to a divorce and said it was natural for the wounds to take some time to heal. Each side is taking care of these injuries in different ways.
Johnson has sacrificed France for problems such as the lack of gas drivers at gas stations due to the lack of truck drivers intensified by Brexit. Macron, who was injured when Australia abandoned France for an undersea alliance with the United Kingdom and the United States, wants to show that his country is stronger within the EU than the United Kingdom.
“We are not asking them to become a third country,” Berman said. “We want them to stay. They chose to, and we value it. But now they can not enjoy the benefits and complete freedom.
In such a dubious environment, even routine disputes can quickly change. The latest debate involves licensing French boats to fish in waters six miles off the coast of England and the Channel Islands, where the French have been fishing for hundreds of years. The total value of the grip in question is 6 million a year, less than a rounding error in France’s $ 2.6 trillion economic output.
But is symbolic of the proportion of its size to the fishing industry. Symbolism is important for two countries that are more identical than different nations – the enemies who opposed the Norman conquest, the Napoleonic wars and Johnson’s parody of Francois (he recently called “Donus Moi un Break”).
Macron has threatened retaliation by imposing strict restrictions on trucks crossing the UK-French border, which could soon escalate into a trade war. He extinguished the fire after finding Johnson Roma Last Sunday. The two agreed to try to reach an agreement, and on Thursday, British Brexit negotiator David Frost met with Clement Fionn, the French minister for European affairs, describing it as an opportunity for the British to “expose their positions and concerns”. See you again next week.
But diplomatic meetings seem less than the plays that take place behind the scenes. Ahead of the positive meeting between Macron and Johnson, French Prime Minister Jean Costex wrote a scathing letter to European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen.
It is important to show that Brussels is “harmful to leave the Union and to remain in it”, Costex wrote.
British officials took this as evidence that France wanted to punish England for Brexit. The French said the tax was deliberately misunderstood to further provoke it, although some diplomats acknowledged that the French were to blame for the expansion, with former French ambassador to Washington Gerrard Arad describing it as “very awkward”.
The episode revealed because it revealed “a total lack of trust between the Europeans and Johnson”.
Diplomats said the mistrust between Macron, a 43-year-old former banker, and Johnson, a 57-year-old former journalist, was nowhere to be found. “In both London and Paris, there is a sense that the relationship will not be normalized when Macron is at the Elysee Palace and Johnson is prime minister,” said Peter Westmacott, the British ambassador to France before Ricketts.
Britain’s exit from the European Union was a special blow to Macron because it disrupted the balance of power between the three major states of the alliance: the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Macron is fighting to consolidate France’s leadership in Germany, which is now dominated by Germany.
“France and Macron have made the EU a central pillar of their domestic and foreign policy,” said Georgina Wright, a British expert on French-British relations at the Institute Montaigne in Paris. “It is very difficult for him to cooperate with the UK government, which continues to oppose the EU.”
Domestically, Macron leads the poll, but he faces a bigger challenge from the right. All of its main rivals are skeptical of the EU, although no one has suggested splitting the union. Provocative TV star and far-right writer Eric Gemmore, who rose to second place in most polls, said England had won the Brexit war and backed strong France in Europe. The same is true of Marine Le Pen, who is third in the poll.
In the face of these challenges, “the message of Emmanuel Macron is to ensure that EU membership includes rights and entitlements, and that France participates in all aspects of European politics,” said Thibaut Harris, an expert on French-British relations at Nova University. Sorphone.
Unlike the UK, however, tensions with France have dominated fuel headlines on Downing Street and pro-Conservative tabloids, and Macron’s dire situation in the UK is often a political calculation. There is little evidence that anti-British sentiment is encouraging the general public.
As for London, however, the fish wars represent the biggest war in its relationship with the EU. The UK is now expected to withdraw on how to handle its deal with Brussels Northern Ireland.
Johnson says the deal disrupted trade between the UK and Northern Ireland. The EU offered solutions but refused to offer concessions that threatened its single market.
With Scotland’s global climate summit coming to an end next week, analysts now expect Johnson to push for a deal that would invalidate the deal. Macron can be expected to defend a strong EU counter-offensive, which is why a fish fight in Jersey could turn into a full-blown trade war.
“We expect a significant increase in tensions, and the French foot will be a big part of it,” said Mujtaba Rahman, analyst at the Eurasia Group on Political Risk Advice. “After that, everything will be more complicated from a legal, political and economic point of view.”
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