Telegraph (UK)
Comment -Telegraph View
April 16, 2009

For more than two days, with apparent impunity, a small group of fishermen caused total chaos.

French trawlermen have lifted their blockade of the Channel ports while they consider an offer from their government of compensation for lost fishing rights. There is, however, no suggestion that compensation will be paid to the holidaymakers, lorry drivers and shipping businesses whose transport arrangements were disrupted by the action. There are, nowadays, alternatives to travelling to France by sea, but the ferries remain a vital link between Britain and the Continent. Yet for more than two days, with apparent impunity, a small group of fishermen caused total chaos, preventing thousands of people from getting home or conducting their business.

There is a well-known anarcho-syndicalist tradition of direct action in France; but just because it has a characteristically Gallic touch does not make it any more tolerable. There has not, to our knowledge, been a single word uttered by the British government in condemnation of this blockade. While it was under way, the two governments managed to issue a joint statement about Sri Lanka, but not about an issue of direct interest to both countries.

The problem with the ferry blockade is that we all know that either it will resume if the trawlermen do not get their way or, later in the summer, farmers or other disgruntled workers will prevent road access to the ports just in time for the holiday season. The free movement of services around the EU is supposed to be policed by the European Commission. Yet there has not been a word from them, either. In the past, France has managed to escape fines that were imposed for restraint of trade, notably when Paris refused to reopen its markets to British beef after the BSE scare. France must recognise there is a price to pay for allowing international waterways to be blockaded in this way.