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France has emerged as one of the prominent obstacles to clinching a new arrangement on fisheries to roll out at the end of the Brexit transition period in December. President Emmanuel Macron has insisted he will not allow a British decision to severely affect the livelihoods of French fishing fleets. Olivier Leprêtre, the president of the Fishermen’s Union Northern France, warned European Union fishermen could retaliate against British vessels and stop UK fish from being sold on the EU market.
Asked whether France could retaliate if vessels are kept out, Mr Leprêtre laughed as he said: “If French fishermen can’t go into UK waters, we’ll be in a complicated situation.
“Because their catch goes to be sold here and fishermen here say they won’t allow British fish to be sold on the European market.”
Xavier Leduc, whose trawler Klondyke operates out of one of France’s biggest fishing ports in Boulogne sur Mer, said “100 percent” of his fishing is done in British waters.
Mr Leduc said: “We are doing 100 percent of our activity in British waters.
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“British fishermen also need to have access to the European market and European fishermen need to keep their fishing rights.”
Merchants Union boss Georges Thomas also dismissed talks about the distinction between fish caught in British waters and fish living around the French coast.
Mr Thomas said: “Fish is reproducing on the French coast and then it moves into deeper water and British waters are deeper.
“So they move up there. So, really, there’s no such thing as French or British fish.”
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Talks between the UK and the EU have continued despite both sides so far refusing to budge on their red lines.
UK negotiator Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier have insisted a deal is still possible to find but they have both called for the other side to make significant concessions on both fisheries and governance.
National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations chief Barrie Deas claimed fishing communities across the UK want there to be a new deal on fisheries as long as it puts an end to the “exploitative” system currently in place.
Mr Deas insisted the UK has been at a “disadvantage” when it comes to fishing since the country first joined the European Union in 1973.
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He said: “From our point of view, we have to move away from this asymmetric, exploitative arrangement that was fixed in the 1970s, reinforced in the 1983 Quota Share Agreements and has worked to the UK’s systematic disadvantage ever since.”
“I think everybody will be worse off with no-deal.
“A trade deal works for everybody, there are member states that are very vulnerable to a no-deal as well as the UK. It’s the EU that made the artificial linkage between trade and fisheries.”
Mr Deas added:”My belief is there will be a deal but that deal has to recognise that things have changed. Under international law, the UK will be an independent coastal state.
“The political price for sacrificing the fishing industry again would be extremely high for them, they recognise it.”
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