Wednesday, 27 Jan 2021

Macron orders Boris Johnson to ‘move’ on fishing and hand French boats access to UK waters

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French MEP Nathalie Loiseau insisted any future relationship pact would be contingent on European vessels being handed fishing rights in the UK’s waters after Brexit. The row still threatens to crash the negotiations with the issue still yet to be resolved by chief negotiators Michel Barnier and Lord Frost. Speaking in the European Parliament in Brussels, Ms Loiseau said: “Much progress has been made. But there are still important disagreements, and the UK must move on them.

“In the same way that we are preparing for reciprocal access to our markets, the UK must accept reciprocal access to our waters for our fishermen.”

The dispute over common standards, including state aid rules, would also have to be addressed in order to clinch an agreement, she added.

She said: “If the United Kingdom wants to continue to trade with Europe without hindrance, it must undertake not to choose production standards that diverge from ours, for example in terms of the environment or health.”

Mr Macron want near-parity access for European fishermen to British waters as the price for any trade deal.

Alongside policing the final agreement, the issues are the main sticking points blocking progress from being made in the Brexit trade talks.

Ms Loiseau said: “Today, with six weeks to go, we’re not there yet. It is actually impossible to say if there will be an agreement.”

Her warning was echoed by Ursula von der Leyen who claimed the bloc would have to back a compromise as time runs out to secure a Brexit deal.

The European Commission chief said an agreement was far from certain because of the disputes over access to Britain’s coastal waters and common standards, including state aid.

Britain is still refusing to sign up to follow the bloc’s evolving standards and offer European fishermen sufficient guarantees for opportunities, she said.

Mrs von der Leyen said: “These are decisive days for our negotiations with the United Kingdom. But, frankly I cannot tell you today if, in the end, there will be a deal.

“However, there’s still three issues that can make the difference between a deal and no deal.

“We will do all in our power to reach an agreement, we’re ready to be creative.”

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She insisted the EU would have to support a “compromise” at next month’s summit of leaders if they are to get the agreement over the line.

“It is when we managed to join forces that we Europeans can achieve the most. It is when we negotiate hard, and then stick to the compromise found that we move forward fast,” she said.

David McAllister, the EU Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, warned: “There is still no agreement.

“I want to point out, we cannot simply wait until the very last minute to agree on a text since we as a Parliament have to scrutinise the final text…

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“We as the European Parliament will have the last word. To give our consent, we need to receive a legal text as soon as possible.

“Nobody should underestimate the risk that a late submission entails for the orderly start of our new EU-UK relations.”

And Dutch MEP Kati Piri said the Parliament would not cave on its “red lines” because a deal is set to be rubber-stamped at the last minute.

She told the debate: “It’s clear we urgently need white smoke.

“But let me reiterate, once again, that the Parliament will not move its red lines to ratify just any last-minute deal.”

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