Brexit fishing standoff as French refuse to back down: ‘UK will lose more’

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Brexit trade talks have been extended as time to secure a trade deal between the UK and the EU is running out. The main issue standing in the way of a deal is fisheries, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said, claiming that a deal could be done if a compromise is made. Mr Barnier said there could be a deal “if both sides can come out of their trenches on fish”. But this requires more than just the agreement of Mr Barnier and the UK negotiating team.

Mr Barnier must also secure the approval of all 27 EU member states, including France, but its President Emmanuel Macron is showing little sign that he will budge.

Last week, he said: “We know the terms, and I’m consistent, so no, I don’t want to have my cake and eat it but I do want the pieces cut equally because I’m not giving my piece away.”

It comes after a former French minister, Nathalie Loiseau, warned the UK will lose more from Brexit than the EU.

The French politician cited disagreements on EU fishing boats’ access to British waters as the chief stumbling block to a post-Brexit trade deal between the two sides.

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She added: “Nobody wants a no deal but we all know as well that the UK has much more to lose because the UK is asking for full access to the single market.”

If the French are cut off from UK waters, it could have devastating impacts on the country’s coastal communities.

France caught 120,000 tonnes of fish worth £171million (€192million) between 2012 and 2016, according to Marine Management Organisation figures.

While many French fishermen are concerned, some are maintaining that the UK still needs access to European markets as 80 percent of British-caught fish is sold to Europe.

Xavier Leduc, a trawlerman from Boulogne, told ITV news last month: “We are doing 100 percent of our activity in the British waters.

“The UK fishermen need also to have access to the European market, and the European fishermen need to keep access to their fishing rights.”

Olivier Lepetre, President of the Fishermen’s Union Northern France, warned that the UK’s fishermen could also pay the price for Brexit.

He said: “If French fishermen can’t go into UK waters, we’ll be in a complicated situation because their catch goes to be sold here.

“Fishermen here say they won’t allow British fish to be sold in the European market.”

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However, Conservative MP and Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen told last month that the EU’s demands should not be accepted.

He said: “It’s like someone renting a property off you, terminating the agreement, and then demanding they keep 80 percent of the back garden.

“Who is going to agree to that? That’s not how it works. It’s absurd.

“There is no court in the world the EU could go to that would uphold their right to keep our sovereign fishing grounds after the EU.”

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