Brexit fishing war backfires on Macron as ‘moody’ French fishermen erupt at ‘timid’ leader


Speaking at a video conference last Saturday, the National Committee of Fishermen told the French Sea Minister Annick Girardian that patience was running low with the President. “The negotiations which resumed last Wednesday have at this stage resulted in a handful of additional licenses issued. The progress made so far is far too timid, and is taking far too long,” said the committee spokesperson.

The aim of the online conference was to reassure French fishermen that progress was being made between France, the EU and the UK.

Looking to reassure French fishermen, Olivier Lepretre, president of the Regional Committee of Maritime Fishing in Hautes France, said: “We need clear answers before the end of the month to give visibility to the fishermen. The work will continue in the days to come, at a forced rate… The government will not give up an inch.”

Already, Mr Macron has threatened to cut off energy supplies to the UK and Jersey over fishing rights, and French Prime Minster Jean Castex backed up his president by saying, “The European Commission is moving, it must do more”, referring to how the EU needed to be firmer with the British over fishing waters.

Attempts to fish in the waters of Jersey also saw a defeat for the French as only a third of French boats applying to fish there were granted a license.

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Trying to add pressure on the UK over the issue, Clement Beaune, the French European Minister said France “would not stand for it”, adding: “Enough already, we have an agreement negotiated by France, by Michel Barnier, and it should be applied 100 percent. It isn’t being. In the next few days – and I talked to my European counterparts on this subject – we will take measures at the European level or nationally to apply pressure on the United Kingdom.”

Adding to the threat of energy supplies, Mr Beaune said: “We defend our interests. We do it nicely and diplomatically, but when that doesn’t work we take measures. The Channel Islands, the UK, are dependent on us for their energy supply. They think they can live on their own and badmouth Europe as well. And because it doesn’t work, they indulge in one-upmanship, and in an aggressive way.”

With Presidential elections in France on the horizon, pressure is on Emmanuel Macron to step up and lead when it comes to such issues.

Having suffered a humiliating defeat by losing a submarine deal with Australia to the UK and US, Mr Macron has to now reaffirm his position as a powerful leader in France.

With around 13,500 fishermen working in France, along with their families, the fact that Mr Macron has taken on the challenge to take on the British over fishing means that a large portion of the electorate will be watching on from the fishing community, and expecting results.

Many of the fishermen work and reside on the north coast of France, delving into the waters on the Channel, Irish Sea, North Sea and around the UK.

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With France’s populist movements traditionally excelling in this region, Mr Macron will have his work cut out to deliver on his promises.

For the French fishermen themselves, they are also in favour of a maximum pressure policy on the UK.

Dominique Thomas, a fishing boss and President of Cobre Nord said on Twitter: “The English want to throw us out, we need to be firmer, increase customs tariffs against them.”

Speaking of the British actions to limit the number of permits issued to French fishermen, A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) spokesperson said: “Our approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”

It went on to say: “We continue to work with the Commission and the French authorities and will consider any further evidence provided to support the remaining license applications.”

For Mr Macron, time is running out prior to the election, and this may well be one last dance for the incumbent as French voters look for leadership during a period of severe misalignment in the corridors of the Élyseé Palace.



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