London — France may be willing to compromise on how much access its fishers get to British waters after Brexit, a topic that has threatened to deadlock trade negotiations between the EU and the UK
The French government has suggested to the fishing industry that compromises need to be made, according to a legislator in Paris, who asked not to be named because the deliberations were private. However, as negotiations over the wider trade deal were intensifying, France’s position was fundamentally unchanged, a person familiar with the discussions said.
Despite having only minimal economic significance, the issue of fishing risks derailing a UK-EU agreement because of the political ramifications for both sides. French boats have fished in British waters for centuries and the industry relies on the catches they make there.
“Fishing is a major sector for some regions” of France, Europe minister Clement Beaune said on Twitter. “Moral, territorial and economic issues are at stake.”
While an EU member, the UK was bound by the Common Fisheries Policy, which divvied up its waters among European countries along historical lines. The EU’s hardline position, designed by France, is that the status quo should remain when the UK leaves the European system on December 31.
But French President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged his country’s industry will have to change and his officials signalled he was willing to compromise. The government asked its fisheries industry what concessions would be acceptable to them, Reuters reported on Friday.
Macron’s office didn’t return calls for comment when approached by Bloomberg.
“Fishing is used by the UK in a tactical way,” Macron told reporters at an EU summit in Brussels earlier in October. “If there’s a no deal, this is the only topic where Boris Johnson can say ‘I won’.”
Negotiations on a trade deal resumed in London on Thursday with both sides aiming for an agreement in about three weeks’ time.