French President Emmanuel Macron made a statement on Friday at the EU Council summit in Brussels on the issue of fishing rights in the English Channel and northern waters between France and England.
“Under no circumstances will our fishermen be the ones who will be sacrificed for this Brexit. We did not choose Brexit; it is the choice of the British people, ”he told Radio France International upon his arrival for a summit in the Belgian capital on Thursday and Friday.
Although Friday’s agenda will focus on what is happening in Africa, the previous day’s discussions had focused on relations with the UK, with fisheries being a major issue.
The UK will aim for a tough exit from the single market by December 31st. Macron also said France is already preparing for the deadline.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will decide at the end of the summit whether Britain will continue talks beyond its self-imposed deadline. Fisheries law is one of the three main issues that need to be negotiated between the UK and the EU. At the top of the list is cross-channel business, with the UK insisting on phasing out state aid to UK businesses when it deems it necessary.
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Governance and the regulation of future deals and agreements is another hot topic.
France’s head of state knows the importance of maintaining access to northern waters and how important a sector is to the French economy.
France is nicknamed “the hexagon” because three of its six borders have coastlines. The country is criss-crossed by hundreds of rivers that flow in and out of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. According to the latest economic data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, France collects 185,150 tons of fish each year and exports just over 1.5 million euros (1.8 million dollars) of fish and fishery products.
The UK wants to return to the negotiating table on an annual basis but in the meantime restrict access to the English Channel and surrounding waters. Various Northern European countries, however, still want open access to the waters for fishing.
At the conclusion of talks on EU-UK relations on Thursday, the heads of state and government issued a statement on the EU Council website calling on the UK to take the necessary steps to enable an agreement .