Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020

Brexit fisheries row: Macron warned of ‘Frexit threat’ if EU cave

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Brexit trade talks have reached a crucial stage as the EU offers Prime Minister Boris Johnson another extension to get a deal over the line. Negotiations have provided little progress for months, with the EU and UK sticking firmly to their red lines. Brussels has warned it will only grant the UK access to European markets if it accepts a level playing field, rules on state aid and grants EU member states access to British fishing waters. Fisheries disputes have been particularly problematic, as eight coastal countries in the bloc warn chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, to hold firm.

Mr Macron has been particularly vocal during talks, warning of a Frexit surge if eurosceptics in his country see any benefit to the UK by leaving the EU.

He was once warned by his Farm Minister, Didier Guillaume, that it would be “very, very grave” if French boats were banned from British waters, and that if this were to happen, there would be “reprisals”.

As Nigel Morris highlights for iNews, the French President faces a “populist challenge” from Marine Le Pen.

He said: “It will be imperative for him to avoid the impression gaining hold in France – where there are deep reservoirs of hostility to Brussels – that there is any benefit from leaving the EU.

“If Britain appears to have been punished in the negotiations, then Mr Macron could benefit in the ballot box in April 2022.”

The next French Presidential election is in 2022, and the last vote in 2017 proved how costly it could be for Mr Macron if fishermen are cut off from UK waters.

Before the 2017 election, fishermen south of the Channel expressed their discontent with their current leadership.

Laurent Merlin, a fisherman from Northern France, told Politico he was voting for Mr Macron’s opponent Ms Le Pen.

He said: “I’m not voting for Le Pen out of conviction.

“I am just fed up with all the lies and false promises. We need results to save our profession from sinking and Brussels has too much power over our fishing.”

During the regional elections in Nord-Pas-de-Calais in 2015, the Socialists had to withdraw from the second round or face a Le Pen victory.

Only five years earlier, a left-wing candidate won the same region with nearly 52 percent of the vote.

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In the 2017 election, Mr Macron secured victory – but Ms Le Pen performed best in the rural areas in the north, north-east and south-east.

The French President promised he would “fight” for his country’s fishermen during Brexit trade talks, but if the UK is to be granted a favourable deal, it would surely see fishermen in the country lose faith in Mr Macron.

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