Cod wars Mk II
The growing row between the UK and France over fishing rights around and about the Channel Islands, post-Brexit will serve Johnson’s government very well in the short term. Britain beating the ‘Frogs’ always plays well with the rabid right wing press, giving the consumers of this garbage the chance to puff themselves up with patriotic fervour, with fond memories of Horatio Nelson to the fore. Fishing is an inconsequential economic issue, but has an emotional appeal when it comes to ‘protecting our precious bodily waters’ (like something out of Dr Strangelove). So for Johnson this is a low cost chance to breast beat about getting Brexit done, seeing off Johnny Foreigner and when and as necessary sending in a little Royal Navy boat or two to show who’s boss. It is, in other words, mere political theatre. One of the ironies, to me at least, is that the Channel Islands, much closer to France than England, rejoice in their offshore tax haven status and contribute bugger all to the British economy. They’re taking us for a ride. Perhaps the French have their agenda too, Macron on this issue may be the mirror image of Johnson. The problem here is that he holds more cards than we do. We might think our island status confers many advantages, but they’ll evaporate if Macron gets tough. Close the ports. Shut down the electricity interconnector. All for the sake of a handful of fishing boats. If Johnson were an adult, he might see the need for co-operation. But that wouldn’t play well with his cheerleaders.
This spat is redolent of a longstanding rivalry, of course. I remember Margaret Beckett, Labour’s one-time foreign secretary, jokingly telling the Parliamentary Labour Party that the UK would never give up its ’nuclear deterrent’ as long as the French kept theirs. Imagine the headlines! She was only half-joking.
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