Brexit fisheries row: France’s ‘insane’ plot to take revenge against UK exposed

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The EU and UK are yet to reach a compromise on fishing as the post-Brexit transition period nears its end. Brussels’ negotiator Michel Barnier has warned the UK it will be excluded from European markets if it doesn’t open up British fishing grounds and accept a level playing field on regulation. The UK has tried to persuade the EU to make concessions, but coastal countries in the bloc have so far pressured Mr Barnier to stick by his initial demands. One of the key reasons Leave won the 2016 referendum was the prospect of the UK taking sole control of its waters.

As fears of a no deal Brexit grow, French fishermen are among many in Europe who could suffer without access to UK waters.

Stephen Sackur met with fishermen from both the UK and France in a BBC Hardtalk documentary released earlier this year.

Jean-Paul Mulot told Mr Sackur: “We are in a tough negotiation, and yes fishing is the first dossier on the table and unfortunately it’s not possible for the French to give up like that.

“We know that the fishermen, their reaction is going to blockade in the ports here in Boulogne ad probably in Calais which means that will affect the other side of the industry.”

Mr Sackur responded: “Jean-Paul, this is insane.

“Are you telling me that the French are prepared to countenance blocking not just the fishing in the UK but also trade across the channel?”

Mr Mulot replied: “It’s symbols. We know that Boris Johnson is also playing on symbols.”

Asked whether the French are bluffing, Mr Mulot added: “No we are not.”

French Minister for European Affairs in Paris, Clement Beaune, sent a stark warning to the UK over Brexit trade talks as he said the EU would stick by its principles.

As the two sides search for a compromise, Mr Beaune told France 24 news last month: “We want to stick to a very simple principle that we have been repeating.

“Not only Paris, but the EU in general and Michel Barnier the negotiator.

“It’s a sovereign decision from the UK to leave the EU, I don’t think it’s a good decision in my personal opinion, but that’s a democratic choice that we do respect.

“But when you leave you have consequences, you cannot ask for basically full access to the single market and not have what we call a level playing field.”

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When asked specifically about France’s stance on giving Mr Barnier more flexibility in trade talks to compromise, Mr Beaune said that is “not what we want”.

He continued: “We have a clear mandate on both sides, Mr Barnier’s mandate has been agreed by all 27 and it will not change.

“It is also based on a political declaration signed last year, both Boris Johnson and the 27 EU member states agreed.

“We are asking to be in line with this political declaration.”

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