- France has recently threatened to cut off power supplies to the UK if the terms of the Brexit deal are not adhered to.
- France is also wielding its influence over the EU for exerting more pressure on the UK to lift the “unreasonable restrictions.”
- France’s patience is already running thin after the last month’s announcement of the AUKUS security pact between the UK, the US and Australia that killed the French submarine deal with Australia.
- France’s threats to cut off the electricity supplies to the UK may sound like a mere tough talk to exert more pressure on London, but such a move would not only render the UK powerless but also a pariah state for the EU.
The AUKUS fiasco has not only spoiled the bonhomie between France and the US, but France’s ties with the UK have taken a massive hit too. France and the UK have already been at loggerheads given the fierce fishing dispute revolving around fishing rights to the French fishermen in Jersey’s territorial waters. Further stoking the tensions between the UK and France, Paris’ minister for European affairs, Clement Beaune, recently threatened to cut off power supplies to the UK if the terms of the Brexit deal are not adhered to.
The Fishing dispute between UK and France
The fishing dispute stems from post-Brexit fishing rules that came into force in May this year. The new rules imposed several restrictions on the French fishermen who saw their permits rejected by the Jersey authorities in large numbers. Jersey is not a part of the UK, but its international relations are managed by London only. Therefore, the fishing issue forms a big subject in the new EU-UK trade agreement.
Jersey says the new permits are issued based on how much fishing the fishermen have done in the region between February 2017 and January 2020. Those providing ample evidence are being bestowed with fishing rights while others are not. Adhering to the norms prescribed in post-Brexit guidelines, the Jersey authorities had approved only 12 of the 47 applications it received from the French fishermen last month. Consequently, Jersey rejected 75 of the total 170 applications it had received from the small French boats.
The French Fury
France says it is well within its rights to cut off power supplies to the UK if the post-Brexit restrictions are not lifted. Clement Beaune, the country’s Europe minister, threatened that “The UK depends on our energy exports, they think they can live alone while also beating up on Europe and, given that it doesn’t work, they engage in aggressive one-upmanship.” Earlier, France had issued similar threats to cut off power supplies to Jersey, which meets 95% of the total electricity demand through submarine power cables originating from France.
France is also wielding its influence over the EU for exerting more pressure on the UK to lift the “unreasonable restrictions.” The EU has backed France’s claims against the UK and accused it of violating Brexit norms by creating “restrictive zones” in the waters. The European Commission also says that the UK gave them no time for discussion, and it was informed only a day before the new laws came into effect.
The fall out after AUKUS
France’s patience is already running thin after the last month’s announcement of the AUKUS security pact between the UK, the US and Australia that killed the French submarine deal with Australia. In the backdrop of the diplomatic crisis between Paris and Washington, Paris officials upped the ante against the UK by saying that the “British government is in the logic of permanent opportunism.”
"No need to call back our ambassador in the UK. We are familiar with Britain's permanent opportunism – and in this case they're the "spare wheel on the carriage"
— Alex Taylor (@AlexTaylorNews) September 18, 2021
Paris withdrew its ambassadors to the US and Australia after the AUKUS was announced; however, it left London untouched illustrating the minuscule prominence of the UK in the French foreign policy. French top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian had remarked that “UK’s role in AUKUS is as a fifth wheel on the carriage.”
Tensions escalate in the Indo-Pacific
The AUKUS rift signals increased competition between the UK and France over the influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Recently, the French embassy in Vietnam mocked the size of a British vessel that recently visited central Vietnam. The British embassy had posted on social media about the vessel’s 4-day visit to Vietnam. Later on, the French embassy in Vietnam quoted the aforementioned tweet and wrote that “Nice ship @UKinVietnam! Ours seems a little bit larger though. It was in Cam Ranh as well last spring.”
— La France au Vietnam (@FranceAuVietnam) October 1, 2021
Paris has also vowed to strengthen its cooperation with India to offset its spoiled relations with Australia. While France has signalled a thaw in the diplomatic standoff with the US after Antony Blinken’s visit, it has so far looked askance upon Australia’s efforts towards rebuilding the partnership. Meanwhile, Paris’ ties with the UK have further plunged owing to the fishing dispute.
France’s threats to cut off the electricity supplies to the UK may sound like a mere tough talk to exert more pressure on London, but such a move would not only render the UK powerless but also a pariah state for the EU. The UK would be well advised to listen to the reasonable demands being made by the EU and French officials. The French are in no mood of relenting and tolerating the UK’s unrestrained behavior any further.