Brexit trade talks have yet to reach a formal agreement, as disagreements over fisheries and regulations remain a sticking point between the UK and the EU. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said today that there is a “way to an agreement”, but it has not been without tension between the UK and France. Last week there were threats of military intervention from Britain, as the government prepared gunboats to protect British waters from European fishermen on January 1 – when the transition period ends.
Manfred Weber, a German MEP and leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, called for a more relaxed approach to the fisheries negotiations.
He said: “The world is full of enemies of the European way of life, of our freedoms and of our values. We must fight these enemies together rather than against each other. ”
Meanwhile, the French government responded with “Keep calm and carry on” – alluding to Britain’s wartime slogan.
The conflict began in 1952 when Iceland imposed a four-mile limit in its fishing waters, preventing foreign vessels from entering.
This angered Britain – leading the government to ban fish caught in Icelandic waters.
Icelandic Foreign Minister Benediktsson made a startling statement that has fueled the flames of already strained relations between British and Icelandic figures.
He said of the ban: “Barring a declaration of war by Britain, he could not conceive of any act more unfriendly than for Her Majesty’s Government to stand aside while ‘such a ban was imposed.
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The UK challenged this decision and sent Royal Navy frigates to accompany fishing vessels to the exclusion zone to continue fishing.
The move has been compared to Iceland’s ‘declaration of war’, as the country was furious at the UK’s actions in a row similar to the current tensions between the UK and France.
Icelandic boats and British fishing vessels clashed in the waters and were struck by British boats, threatening the Icelandic coastguard to open fire.
In 1961, the two countries reached an agreement that allowed Iceland to retain its 12-mile zone in exchange for conditional access for British ships.
Tensions rekindled again in 1973 when Iceland extended its exclusive fishing zone to 50 miles.
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The British Embassy in Reykjavik was stoned and a Grimsby trawler shot down.
British and French fishermen have been under stress more recently after the “scallop wars” in 2012 and 2018.
These latest clashes were particularly hostile, as they quickly turned violent when three British trawlers were chased by French boats, struck by stones and struck by their counterparts.
Gasoline bombs and flares were fired as British boats in attacking French fishermen arrived as British vessels were allowed to fish in the Seine Bay area.