Monday, 18 Jan 2021

Macron warned he’s wildly misjudged Boris on Brexit talks – ‘History won’t judge kindly!’

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The French president has demanded the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier stick with his hardline stance on continued access to UK waters for EU fisheries under the current terms. But after months of trade talks, Brussels and the UK remain at loggerheads on the issue with just weeks until the end of the EU transition period.

Both sides have been holding out in the hope the other may cave to their demands.

Now, Lord Hague has warned France and other EU nations they would be wrong to assume Boris Johnson has the political capacity to bend to their will on fishing.

He wrote in an opinion piece today: “President Macron and others might easily misjudge how much room Boris Johnson has for manoeuvre on this issue.

“History will not judge them kindly if there is no agreement over an insistence that fishing rights in another country’s seas can barely ever be changed.”


Under current EU rules – which the UK remains bound by until the end of the year – more than 60 percent of fish caught in British waters are from foreign boats.

Lord Hague understands the predicament the Prime Minister faces on convincing his MPs he has secured a good trade deal with the EU better than most.

Between 1997 and 2001, Lord Hague was leader of the Conservatives and was tasked with keeping the party united amid bitter infighting and factionalism.

After years of Tory backbench rebellions in the House of Commons votes on Brexit, Mr Johnson faces the challenge of securing a deal that will be backed in a vote by his MPs.

“Taking back control” of UK waters was a central pledge of the 2016 EU referendum and one which Conservative Brexiteers will expect to be honoured in a free trade deal with Brussels.

Writing in The Telegraph, Lord Hague described Britain’s refusal to cave on fishing “completely reasonable”.

He wrote: “Fisheries are the most intractable issue and one on which the British side has very strong arguments.

“The UK will become what is known as an independent coastal state, entitled to control of its own sovereign waters.

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“Its boats are currently restricted to a tiny proportion of the fishing catch in certain products, such as seven percent of cod in the Celtic Sea, while it is thought 40 percent of the cod in that region are in UK waters.

“Seen in that light, EU offers to increase the British share of the catch by small percentages do not amount to very much.”

It is understood last week Mr Barnier made an offer to David Frost, his UK counterpart, to increase Britain’s fishing quotes by 15 to 18 percent I order to force a deal.

No10 immediately rejected the suggested compromise, calling it “derisory”.

Just days remaining to secure a deal in time for it to be ratified before the transition period ends on December 31.

Mr Barnier and Lord Frost are holding talks in London this week in what is seen as the last available chance to secure aa agreement.

But with no sign of progress in sight, Lord Hague has called on the Prime Minister and EU leaders to intervene to secure a deal, warning it would be ” a failure of statesmanship” not to find a solution.

He said: “It is surely time for the Prime Minister and his EU counterparts to talk, and to resolve the remaining differences in a way their people are entitled to expect.”

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