French president Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool via AP
Macron lays ground for netting Brexit compromise on fisheries
Monday, October 26, 2020, 15:00 (GMT + 9)
The following is an excerpt from an article published by The Irish Times:
France is preparing its fishing industry for a smaller catch after Brexit, industry members said, in a sign that president Emmanuel Macron is laying the ground for a delicate compromise to help the European Union strike a trade deal with Britain.
The EU and Britain are trying to hammer out an agreement over the next three weeks to avoid damaging $750 billion in annual trade when Britain leaves the bloc's single market on January 1st, 2021. Fisheries is among the biggest obstacles.
Mr Macron has publicly taken a hard line on fisheries, saying France would not accept any Brexit pact that "sacrifices our fishermen". He rejected London's demand for annual negotiations on fish quotas in British waters, saying it damages EU industry.
In a first sign of a tentative softening of Paris' stance, however, Mr Macron said after last week's summit of national EU leaders dedicated to Brexit that the French industry will no longer be in the same situation as today after year-end.
French fishing fleet, fishing grounds and main species (Image: comite-peches.fr)
Privately, his government has gone further, bluntly telling France's politically influential fish industry to brace for impact, sources told Reuters.
The exchange illustrates France's twin strategy in the Brexit negotiation – talking tough in public while quietly preparing to fish less in British waters from 2021.
In another example of Paris eyeing a possible compromise, a fisheries source told Reuters separately the French government has already asked the industry what concessions would be acceptable to them.
"They asked us if potentially, really potentially we were ready to make concessions," said the source, who declined to be named. "They asked us to think about it."
Many French and other EU vessels now fish in the rich British waters that would be beyond reach if there is no deal. Any agreement would need to fix catch quotas for over a 100 species.
Image: House of Lords
In an early indication of movement on fisheries from London, Britain last month offered a transition period from 2021 to increase its catch gradually rather than overnight.
But the sides remain seas apart on what exactly Britain's share would be in the end.
Britain says it would become an "independent coastal state" controlling its waters and who fishes there once its transition out of the EU is complete.
EU fishing states including Germany and Ireland support France. But it is Mr Macron, facing presidential elections in 2022, who leads the hardline rhetoric and will be instrumental in striking a fisheries pact.
He has to weigh up the risk of angering a small but thriving and vocal industry, with that of blocking the new Brexit pact, which would lead to tariffs and quotas damaging bilateral trade.
"Macron holds the key," said an EU diplomat following Brexit. "If France climbs down, we can get a deal."
Authors: Michel Rose and Gabriela Baczynska / breakingnews.ie | Read the rest of the story by clicking the link here