The United Kingdom on Sunday disavowed a French announcement that PM Boris Johnson and president Emmanuel Macron had agreed to de-escalate a dispute over fishing rights. Earlier a French official has advanced that the two leaders had agreed to address the issue in a private meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome.
However a spokesperson for Johnson told reporters later: It will be for the French to decide whether they want to step away from the threats they've made in recent days about breaching the Brexit agreement.
Of course, we would welcome that if they want to de-escalate the threats that they have made, he added.
Paris said the truce had been agreed after days of escalating threats with the prospect of new trade barriers between France and former EU member Britain.
The goal for both the president and the prime minister was to work towards de-escalation, the French official told reporters after the meeting between the two leaders. We are giving ourselves the space for de-escalation in the coming hours.
The official said Macron had told Britain it should obey the rules instead of failing to give France enough fishing licenses to operate in British waters. Practical guidelines are needed as quickly as possible to reduce tensions, according to French media reports.
Paris is furious that UK and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey have not issued fishing licenses to French vessels. UK has insisted it is meeting the conditions of the post-Brexit trade agreement.
In a brief statement on the meeting with Macron, 10 Downing Street said the Prime Minister raised the Northern Ireland protocol, which he said was the most important issue currently affecting UK-EU relations. The Prime Minister stressed the need to urgently agree a solution in order to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, including on governance.
The leaders discussed fishing licenses. The Prime Minister reiterated his deep concern over the rhetoric emanating from the French Government in recent days, including the suggestion by the French Prime Minister that the UK should be punished for leaving the EU. He expressed his hope that the French Government would de-escalate this rhetoric and withdraw their threats.