Brussels infighting explodes as EU fishing chiefs lash out at Barnier’s Brexit ‘sell-out’

Brexit: French mayor says EU is 'right to stand firm' on fisheries

EU fishing chiefs are furious at Michel Barnier’s decision to increase his offer to the British, amid a surprise Brussels pushback against the chief negotiator. The mayor of the biggest French fishing port Boulogne Sur Mer told France24 that it was right to “stand firm” against the British demands. Frederic Cuvellier said that the UK “depends on EU consumers and not just for its fish, actually”.

He added: “So the EU is right to stand firm in these negotiations. It has to go both ways.”

On Saturday, representatives of the European fishing sector said the EU was going too far in its efforts to reach a deal.

The European Fisheries Alliance, a group representing fleets from coastal nations such as Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, said: “The shape of a deal, as it currently stands would give a huge blow to the European seafood sector.”

The Alliance’s chairman Gerard van Balsfoort added: “In spite of repeated promises made, we are in the throes of being sold down the river with the offer made to the United Kingdom by the European Commission.”

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This comes after Michel Barnier appears to have offered to return around 25 percent of the current EU fishing catch in British waters to the UK.

This marks a 7 percent increase from the previous 18 percent offer – but it is still “a long way” from the UK’s demand of 60 percent.

Other French fishermen spoke out about their concerns of being shut out from British waters if Britain walks away from the talks.

Pierre-Marc Caoloin told France24: “We spend 60 to 70 percent of our time fishing in British waters. If it’s a hard Brexit, it is going to be really tough for us.”

Another French fisherman Hugo LePretre added: “There are scores and scores of boats, foreigns ones from Belgium or Holland, and the local boats.

“The French waters are completely scrapped out. The little we haul in, we catch in British waters.

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“And now they want to ban us from fishing there. What are we going to do? Honestly, we are dead.”

The France24 report claimed that a no deal Brexit could lead to a “full-blown crisis” among EU fishing vessels.

This comes as a government source told the BBC that will be no post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU unless there is a “substantial shift” from Brussels in the coming days.

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It is understood there is likely to be a decision before Christmas on whether or not a deal can be reached.

The two sides have currently battling in negotiations about how many years it will take to phase in new fisheries arrangements.

Clément Beaune, the French Europe minister, told France Inter radio that President Emmanuel Macron was following the ongoing Brexit talks “very closely”.

Mr Macron has urged the EU to add in punishment clauses in the event that Britain shuts EU vessels out of its fishing waters.

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