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As the EU prepares to discuss British proposals on post-Brexit fishing rights, France’s Europe minister has told the BBC that the UK’s approach to the withdrawal agreement in the last few weeks was extremely worrying. Fishing has become a key sticking point in negotiations with French President Emmanuel Macron warning he won’t discuss fishing in isolation from the rest of the deal. BBC Paris Correspondent, Lucy Williamson, went to Boulogne-sur-Mer at the heart of France’s fishing industry to ask what compromise would mean.
Laurent Merlin, a fisherman, told her: “We’re devastated.
“If we can’t enter British waters, it’s practically the end of our profession.
“We might decide to flex some muscles. We got into trouble before for blocking the port of Calais, but it’s something we will discuss.”
Britain reportedly wants to change the way its fish stocks are allocated and taper off EU catches over several years.
France has refused any compromise, claiming that no deal is better than a bad deal.
However, many fishermen say they would compromise on their catch rather than lose access completely.
Stephane Pinto, the deputy head of Fishing Committee, told the BBC: “It will be a lot more acceptable to have 80 percent of the catch in British waters rather than nothing at all.
“60 percent of the catch? That’s not viable.”
He added: “But with some sort of financial compensation, maybe.”
France’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, told the BBC: “We do want trust with the UK.
“What we have seen in the last few weeks regarding the withdrawal agreement is extremely worrying.”
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He continued: “There will be no agreement on the future relation if we don’t have full confidence of the respect of the first part of this negotiation, this is no agreement.”
EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier pleaded for some wiggle room with the demands.
Half the catch in France’s northern ports comes from British waters.
Three quarters of Britain’s catch is sold to the EU.
No deal could risk the livelihoods of fishermen on both sides of the Channel.
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