BREAKING BRITANNIA NEWS
The decision by Guernsey authorities to temporarily suspend access to the island’s waters by French vessels in the aftermath of Brexit last week sparked consternation and outcry in France. Conservative heavyweight Xavier Bertrand said on Thursday there should be”no restrictions” on fisheries in any future trade agreement.
“There should be no restrictions at all on French fishermen,” M Bertrand, the president of the northern Hauts-de-France area, told France Info radio, amid a continuing dispute over EU access to British waters following the UK’s death from the bloc last week.
“We must speak a clearer and more rigorous language to our British friends by telling them : if we can not fish in your waters, you can not fish in ours,” he cautioned.
French sailors regained access to oceans around Guernsey on Wednesday, following a contentious five-day fishing ban triggered by post-Brexit administrative changes.
The spat started after authorities in Guernsey, a Crown dependency unilaterally decided to set up a system whereby boats would need individual authorisations to enter the waters 6 to twelve miles off its coasts.
London and Brussels now need to negotiate a post-divorce trade agreement but for now, the relationship is a business-as-usual transition period before the end of this year, meaning that French sailors would retain access to British waters and vice versa.
M Bertrand continued:”If we need an intelligent bargain, one that is mutually beneficial, then we need to be firm. We have to tell the British that fisheries is a fundamental concern in post-Brexit negotiations.”
The European Union will link any access to its markets for British goods right to the access that EU ships will be awarded to UK waters, the bloc’s chief negotiator warned on Monday.
Michel Barnier underlined the difficulties of the upcoming trade negotiations with Britain when he emphasized the small but symbolic fisheries industry.
He told France Inter radio that”there will not be a trade deal with the British if there is no reciprocal access for our fishermen”.
He said:”We will negotiate access to the British territorial waters for European fishermen at the same time we negotiate access to European markets for British fisheries products. I hope I make myself clear.”
Overall, the bloc is open to striking a zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal with London, but only if Britain abides by EU standards on the environment, workers’ rights, tax and state aid.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for his part, retorted there was”no need to get a free trade arrangement to involve accepting EU rules”.
“Are we going to insist that the EU does everything that we do as the price of free trade? Are we?
“We want a comprehensive free trade agreement similar to Canada’s but in the unlikely event that we don’t succeed then our trade is going to have to be based on our existing withdrawal agreement with the EU,” he continued.
London and Brussels have 11 months to seal a trade deal. But if there is no deal by the end of 2020 and the UK refuses to extend the negotiating period, a chaotic no-deal situation could still happen — with tariffs and other obstacles to trade imposed immediately between the UK and EU.
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