Macron set to crash Brexit talks in desperate bid to keep control of UK’s fishing grounds

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Despite mounting pressure on Paris to drop its hardline stance, diplomats have warned the influential capital is still willing to sink any future relationship pact with the UK over fisheries. It comes as Brexit negotiators offered Brussels a three year transition period on fishing rights in an attempt to secure a breakthrough in trade talks Downing Street did not deny that proposals have been put forward that would give EU fleets “phased down” quotas until 2024 to allow them time to adapt to changes. 

France’s demands for the same level of access to UK waters in the future as it has now has been one of the major stumbling blocks in the negotiations. 

A senior EU diplomat said: “This is nothing new because the UK has been saying this for months. It shows that things are not moving very fast.

“Is this a phasing-out of the withdrawal of British fishermen from the EU? Or of the access of British fishery products to the EU?

“It’s a calculation for the UK: does a certain reduction in the access of European fishermen to British waters deserve to give up access without tariffs and quotas for all goods?”

“This is not a topic that will be easily resolved by phasing out.”

French President Emmanuel Macron will not be present tomorrow when EU leaders take part in a “Brexit information point” at a Brussels summit.

Lord Frost, Boris Johnson’s Brexit envoy, is in the Belgian capital for Brexit talks with EU counterpart Michel Barnier.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman insisted the Government will not accept any measures that compromise UK control over its waters.

“The sort of agreement we are looking for is the sort of agreement which the EU has with Norway,” he said.

“Our position in relation to fishing and access to our fishing waters has been very clear from the outset.”

And a Government source said: We will ensure that Brexit delivers the benefits that fishing communities have long been asking for.”

The Government was warned it must face down EU demands for the same level of access.

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Elspeth Macdonald, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive, wrote to Lord Frost as trade talks continued with Brussels.

She said the Common Fisheries Policy has given away the majority of fish in UK waters “for the benefit of the EU fleet” over the last 40 years.

Ms Macdonald said “we are now very close to being able to right that wrong” and warned it is “imperative at this crucial stage that the UK remains steadfast”.

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Barrie Deas, of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said he was confident No 10 would not fold.

“The fishing industry’s fear right from the beginning has been that we would again be sold out as we were in the 1970s, and that fear hasn’t gone away,” he said.

“But on the other hand, I think fishing has a symbolism that gives it a special status. And that’s why I think fishing has gone to the top of the list of priorities, because in some way it’s a litmus test for Brexit.”

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