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French President Emmanuel Macron’s hardline stance on fisheries remains the key stumbling block in the deadlocked Brexit talks. A Bloomberg reporter questioned Ireland’s Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath on whether Mr Macron “has to give some substantial ground on fish to get this deal done”. The Irish minister responded that Ireland’s economy depended on a trade deal going through, and urged “movement on fisheries to get a deal over the line”.
The Bloomberg journalist said: “Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said that the two sides are miles apart on fish.
“Is President Macron of France coming to have to give some substantial ground on fish to get this deal done?”
Mr McGrath said: “Well, I welcome the fact that the talks have now resumed.
“From an Irish perspective securing a trade deal is in our economic interest and it is also in the economic interest of the UK.”
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The Irish minister continued: “We do want to avoid no trade deal scenario on the 1st January.
“That would have a hugely disruptive impact on the UK economy, on the Irish economy, and to varying degrees on economies of different EU countries too.”
“There will have to be movement to get a deal over the line.”
This comes amid breakthrough claims that Emmanuel Macron is laying down the framework for an embarrassing climbdown on French fisheries demands.
Industry members said on Friday that France is preparing its fishing industry for a smaller catch after Brexit.
Privately, Mr Macron’s government told France’s politically influential fishing industry to brace for impact in comments that instantly pushed sterling and British bond yields higher.
A fishermen who attended the meeting said: “They were blunt. They said it won’t be the same as before. For me it’s clear, they just want to try to limit damages as much as possible.”
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Macron has recently come out with a hard line on fisheries, saying France would not accept any Brexit pact that “sacrifices our fishermen”.
He rejected London’s demand for annual negotiations on fish quotas in British waters and said that Boris Johnson had to compromise on fishing if the UK wanted a deal.
However, following pressure from Brussels leadership and the other EU member-states, Mr Macron is on the cusp of a U-turn.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said this week he “wasn’t worried about anything else but fish”.
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