HASTINGS, ENGLAND – AUGUST 10: Skipper Stuart Hamilton, (L) and crew member Dan Lee sort through their catch while fishing for flatfish such as Skate and Dover Sole in the English Channel from a Hastings fishing boat on August 10, 2020 in Hastings, England. For coastal communities around the UK, the fishing industry is their economic lifeblood, bringing in close to 1 Billion GBP to the UK economy annually. While the industry is small in comparison to the financial sector, fishing rights have assumed outsized importance in Brexit negotiations between the UK and European Union. Many fishermen would see the UK’s departure from the Common Fisheries policy as a step forward, arguing that our membership has resulted in the loss of British jobs and income. Most concede however that a compromise will need to be struck, as much of the catch is sold into European markets, which, if disrupted, would be a major blow to British fishing operations. Meanwhile, warming waters have driven much of the profitable fish, such as cod, farther north, only to be replaced with less profitable species such as spider crab. As waters have warmed the crabs have massed in the channel where they come to shed their shells, a process that leaves much of them inedible. Amid these environmental and political concerns, there is the coronavirus pandemic, which shuttered countless restaurants and deprived these fleets of many regular customers. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
, Photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe
France is sharpening its tone on fishing rights, warning that while an agreement with the U.K. is an integral part of any post-Brexit trade accord, its proposals have fallen short.
“The U.K. has made unacceptable proposals until now,” French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin said in an interview published Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper. The nation’s fishermen “aren’t wrong” in saying they would prefer no deal to a bad one, she added.
Her comments were backed up by Junior European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune, who said France wouldn’t cave and that an agreement is needed around the start of November.
“We shouldn’t lose our calm in the final days of negotiations because that’s when bad concessions can be made,” Beaune said on France Info radio.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has adopted a similar stance. He told French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday that Britain remains committed to seeking a trade deal with the European Union but not at any cost. Johnson emphasized the need for a breakthrough in areas including fishing rights and state aid.
The two spoke by telephone days ahead of Johnson’s self-imposed deadline for reaching an accord over the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU, according to an emailed statement from Downing Street.
Britain and the EU are still at loggerheads on state subsidies for businesses as well as fishing — with Macron pushing hard to keep the same access to British waters his country’s fleet enjoys currently.
“We have laid out our red lines, which are access to fishing zones, quotas and species being fished today,” Girardin said in the JDD interview.
“I think we can still get a deal because there won’t be an overall accord if we don’t get one on fishing,” but France is “preparing for all outcomes, which includes not getting an accord,” she was quoted as saying.
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