French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin said on Thursday that Emmanuel Macron’s government has an exit plan for French fishermen who might lose out on a post-Brexit licences row with the UK. The move sparked the anger of fishermen who took the announcement as proof France was ready to give up in the dispute.
Brittany’s president, Loïg Chesnais-Girard, said he was astonished by the announcement, adding “the showdown is not lost and the negotiations are not over”.
He continued: “I cannot hear that we are embarking on a massive plan to destroy boats.”
The president of the Brittany regional fisheries committee , Olivier Le Nezet, echoed: “What message is the government sending?
“This message says that it is better to be outside Europe than inside!”
He also warned the move would amount to “political bankruptcy” and a “chain of explosions”.
Ms Girardin denied she was “surrendering” to the UK in an interview on Friday.
She added: “This does not mean that we surrender to the United Kingdom.
“But if we were not to obtain these licenses, which I can not imagine, I must anticipate and provide a solution for each.
READ MORE: Macron fury at UK over fishing licences as French turn on him
And on Friday, Mr Macron said he would continue to fight for his fishermen.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Macron said: “We are going to continue to fight, we will not abandon our fishermen.”
French threats were taken off the table while the European Commission brokered talks between the two sides, but Mr Macron appeared to suggest the negotiations were taking too long.
He said: “The Commission must protect us. It has to see this through, but it’s moving too slowly, too weakly.”
He added: “If the Commission doesn’t play its part, France will do it.”
Brexit minister Lord Frost has met with French Europe minister, Clement Beaune, and the Commission, to try and find an answer to the row over small vessels.
But there has been no resolution yet to the dispute and Paris has insisted the sanctions – which could include a ban on British trawlers landing their catches in French ports and tighter customs checks to hamper cross-Channel trade – remain “on the table” if a deal cannot be reached.
The French have also threatened to cut off the electric supply to Jersey.
Mr Macron added: “I refuse to return to a bilateral discussion.
“This isn’t a question for France and the British, but a question of respecting your word”.
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