Macron Backs Down, Gives BoJo More Time To Find Compromise As Fisheries Dispute Worsens

Macron Backs Down, Gives BoJo More Time To Find Compromise As Fisheries Dispute Worsens

It nearly sunk the Brexit deal, and now the ongoing dispute between France and the UK over access to fisheries in the North Atlantic is threatening to overshadow the biggest global climate summit since the Paris Accords in 2015.

But in the latest win for UK PM Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron has backed off from his threat to retaliate against the British for blocking French fishing boats from accessing British fisheries (which they were granted access to as part of the agreement between the Brits and the EU27 that averted a “hard” Brexit), saying that the Brits would “come back to us tomorrow with further proposals.  We’ll see where we are at the end of the day,” Macron told reporters in Glasgow.

“We won’t be bringing in sanctions while we’re negotiating,” Macron added.

Macron’s decision followed a day of tense discussions, with the UK-France fishing spat at risk of overshadowing the broader COP26 climate talks. France had previously threatened to introduce additional customs controls on goods entering from the UK and also threatened to block UK fishing boats from landing their catches in France, if progress wasn’t made on issuing extra licenses by midnight on Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office welcomed Macron’s decision in a statement, saying  “we are ready to continue intensive discussions on fisheries.”

Downing Street said Brexit Minister David Frost will travel to Paris on Thursday for in-person talks with French junior minister for European affairs, Clement Beaune.

“We’ve always said we want to de-escalate this,” UK Environment Minister George Eustice said on Sky News on Tuesday.

“We welcome the fact France has stepped back from the threats it was making.”

The fishing rights at stake represent only a tiny fraction of each countries’ economy, but they have become a major flash point following the UK’s departure from the EU. The issue cast a stink over the G-20 meeting in Rome this weekend, and has continued to make diplomats nervous at the COP in Glasgow.

You will find more infographics at Statista

Part of the kerfuffle stems from French authorities’ decision to detain a British trawler which they alleged was fishing in off-limits waters. The skipper’s owner said the boat was still being held in France, just hours after UK Environment Minister Eustice claimed it had been freed, but not before France’s ambassador to London was summoned to the Foreign Office for a rebuke usually reserved for hostile states.

But on Tuesday morning, Eustice welcomed France’s decision to back down on the post-Brexit fishing row, and said the French government had agreed to release the detained British trawler and temporarily removed its threat of punitive action against the UK. The Environment Secretary said that the impounded Scottish skipper, the Cornelis Gert Jan, has now been released pending discussion of what Eustice described as an “administrative error.”

To try and maximize its leverage over the UK, the French government has also warned it could raise energy prices for the British Channel Islands, which are heavily reliant on electricity from France via an undersea cable.

There was no outward sign of tension as Johnson welcomed Macron to the COP26 climate summit, with the two leaders smiling and chatting for several minutes. But behind the scenes, diplomats are scrambling, and one thing is clear: the dispute is far from resolved.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 11/02/2021 – 12:05

Share DeepPol