Brexit: Emmanuel Macron and Annick Girardin are working hard to reassure fishermen

IThey won’t let go. President Emmanuel Macron and the Minister of the Sea went to the front, Sunday, November 21, 2021, to reassure the fishermen of Hauts-de-France, exasperated by the dispute with London on post-Brexit licenses. The Head of State spoke on the phone with the president of the Regional Fisheries Committee, Olivier Leprêtre, for about fifteen minutes, according to the latter. He reminded him “that in no case would he let go of the history of the expected licenses and that he would not drop the French fishermen,” Olivier Leprêtre reported to Agence France-Presse.

Emmanuel Macron is counting on the French presidency of the EU, from January 1, to “make the voice of French fishermen better heard within Europe”, continued the representative of the sector. “The fact that Emmanuel Macron called me directly and personally this afternoon confirms that he is very attentive to the file,” said Olivier Leprêtre, who is due to hold a press point on Monday at 5.30 p.m. in Boulogne- on sea.

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The President of the Republic also told him that the announcement Thursday by the Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, of a fleet exit plan had been misinterpreted. The latter had mentioned a possible envelope “of 40 to 60 million euros” to compensate French fishermen without a fishing license in British waters because of Brexit, which had been experienced as a capitulation by professionals.

“Pissing off the English economy”

During a meeting with the fishermen of Hauts-de-France on Sunday in Cap – Gris-Nez (Pas-de-Calais), the minister assured them of her desire to “continue the fight” against London to obtain all the licenses claimed. The fishermen “have now understood what my position was”, she said, deeming “inadmissible” the interpretation “made by the English” of French requests. Annick Girardin underlined that “80% of the files” were settled with “more than 960 licenses” of fishing granted. “But I have always said that we should not leave anyone on the edge of the quay,” she stressed.

Eleven months after Brexit, around 150 French boats are still awaiting authorizations to set their nets in British waters. Far from being appeased, the representatives of the fishermen had let it be known after the meeting with the minister that they remained determined to express their discontent through actions. “It will be targeted. Not to piss off our economy or whatever. It will be more to piss off the English economy, ”explained Bruno Margollé, president of the Etaploise maritime cooperative. “I think they’ve been patient enough. They’ve been waiting for eleven months, ”said Olivier Leprêtre before his interview with Emmanuel Macron.

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In this explosive context, the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune announced on Twitter that he would go to Brussels on Monday to “continue this essential negotiation for France and the EU”. “Our objective has not changed: to enforce the agreement, to obtain our licenses, to defend the interests of our fishermen”, he wrote after an interview with the British Secretary of State in charge of Brexit, David Frost .

In a tweet, David Frost said he was “happy to talk again next week with Clément Beaune about the perspectives of our current discussions on fisheries with the European Commission”, in charge of the discussions. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, on Sunday described Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “populist”. “This is a test the UK is doing against the EU and the EU must demand respect for the agreement,” he told LCI. “Today the British are making exaggerated and infuriating pointillism,” he regretted.

Under the Brexit agreement signed at the end of 2020 between London and Brussels, European fishermen can continue to work in British waters provided they can prove that they were fishing there before. But the French and the British argue over the nature and extent of the supporting documents to be provided.

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