France demands ‘NO restrictions’ on fishermen in UK waters as price for Brexit trade deal
EMMANUEL MACRON is facing pressure from within France to demand “no restrictions” on fisheries in a Brexit trade deal with the UK, allowing the country to have continued access to Britain’s fishing waters.
The decision by Guernsey authorities to temporarily suspend access to the island’s waters by French vessels in the wake of Brexit last week sparked consternation and outcry in France. Conservative heavyweight Xavier Bertrand said on Thursday there should be “no restrictions” on fisheries in any future trade agreement.
“There should be no restrictions at all on French fishermen,” M Bertrand, the president of the northern Hauts-de-France region, told France Info radio, amid an ongoing dispute over EU access to British waters following the UK’s departure from the bloc last week.
“We must speak a clearer and stricter language to our British friends by telling them this: if we can’t fish in your waters, you can’t fish in ours,” he warned.
French fishermen regained access to waters around Guernsey on Wednesday, after a controversial five-day fishing ban triggered by post-Brexit administrative changes.
The agreement on water access to Guernsey coasts, one of the Channel Islands situated near the French coast of Normandy, was based on a European fisheries treaty that expired automatically with Brexit.
Castle Cornet with Sark beyond, St Peter Port, Guernsey
The spat started after authorities in Guernsey, a Crown dependency unilaterally decided to install a system whereby boats would need to get individual authorisations to enter the waters 6 to twelve miles off its coasts.
London and Brussels now need to negotiate a post-divorce trade agreement but for now, the relationship is a business-as-usual transition period until the end of this year, meaning that French fishermen would retain access to British waters and vice versa.
M Bertrand continued: “If we want an intelligent deal, one that is mutually beneficial, then we need to be firm. We must tell the British that fisheries is a central concern in post-Brexit negotiations.”
The European Union will link any access to its markets for British products directly to the access that EU boats will be given to UK waters, the bloc’s chief negotiator warned on Monday.
Emmanuel Macron wants French fishermen to have access to British waters
Michel Barnier underlined the difficulties of the upcoming trade negotiations with Britain when he highlighted the small but symbolic fisheries industry.
He told France Inter radio that “there will be no trade deal with the British if there is no reciprocal access for our fishermen”.
He said: “We will negotiate access to the British territorial waters for European fishermen at the same time that we negotiate access to European markets for British fisheries products. I hope I make myself clear.”
Overall, the bloc is open to striking a zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal with London, but only if Britain abides by EU standards on the environment, workers’ rights, tax and state aid.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for his part, retorted there was “no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules”.
Brexit: Michel Barnier using fishing as ‘leverage’ claims expert
“Are we going to insist that the EU does everything that we do as the price of free trade? Are we? Of course not,” Mr Johnson said in a speech in London, adding that Britain’s preferred choice was a Canada-style accord.
“We want a comprehensive free trade agreement similar to Canada’s but in the unlikely event that we do not succeed then our trade will have to be based on our existing withdrawal agreement with the EU,” he continued.
London and Brussels have 11 months to seal a trade deal. But if there is no deal by the end of 2020 and the UK refuses to extend the negotiating period, a chaotic no-deal scenario could still happen – with tariffs and other obstacles to trade imposed immediately between the UK and EU
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