Foreign Office minister Wendy Morton was instructed to summon the French ambassador in for talks on Thursday after Brexit minister Lord David Frost held a crisis meeting of senior ministers.
France detained a British scallop trawler in waters off its coast and has threatened the UK with more measures, with one of Emmanuel Macron’s ministers vowing that they would “speak the language of strength”.
The UK government denounced the seizure of a British boat and warned Paris against any further retaliation following Lord Frost’s emergency meeting.
A UK government spokesperson said: “The proposed French actions are unjustified and do not appear to be compatible on the EU’s part with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) or wider international law.
“We regret the confrontational language that has been consistently used by the French government on this issue, which makes this situation no easier to resolve.”
The spokesperson added: “We have raised our concerns strongly with both the French and the EU Commission. As a next step, the foreign secretary has instructed minister Morton to summon the French ambassador.”
Environment secretary George Eustice has said that French threats to block British boats from French ports and tighten checks on supply lines could breach international law.
But French maritime minister Annick Girardin claimed Britain had failed to comply with the TCA deal signed by with the EU last December over the granting of fishing licenses, as she vowed more retaliatory measures. “It’s not war, it’s a fight,” she said.
And Mr Macron’s European affairs minister Clement Beaune told French TV: “So now we need to speak the language of strength since that seems to be the only thing this British government understands.”
However, Downing Street insists the terms of the trade agreement has not been broken. “We repeat that the government has granted 98% of licence applications from EU vessels to fish in the UK’s waters and, as has consistently been made clear, will consider any further evidence on the remainder,” a spokesperson said.
It comes as Cornelis, a British scallop trawler, owned by Scottish firm Macduff Shellfish, continues to be detained by French officials for allegedly operating in France’s waters without a licence.