‘Fool!’ Macron’s Brexit fishing war spectacularly backfires as French turn on leader

Macron says ‘the ball is in Britain’s court’

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The French President decided to suspend Brexit threats against the UK over fishing rights at the eleventh hour. The move, which was welcomed by the UK Government, prompted backlash in France with Mr Macron’s rivals lamenting the President for making a “fool of himself”.

UPR leader Francois Asselineau said: “Standing up for the interests of our fishermen, that’s good.

“Issuing an ultimatum, then realising that the EU doesn’t really support it and that the UK has real means of retaliation are gross mistakes.

“To cancel the ultimatum is to make a fool of yourself.”

Echoing Mr Asselineau’s concerns, the leader of Les Patriotes, Florian Philippot also said: “Fishing: Macron promised sanctions against the United Kingdom this Tuesday at midnight.

“Then, pitiful, announces that he is backing down!

“Trump spoke of a ‘wimp’ about him, it’s incredible!

“French fishermen, demand a sovereign country and a true head of state!”

French MEP Pierre Karleskind, from La Republique en Marche, Emmanuel Macron’s party, urged the President to follow his retaliatory threats with action.

Speaking to French daily Le Telegramme, Mr Kareskind said: “We have to make it clear that we will not allow others to take advantage of France.

“When France announces that it will refuse English fishermen the right to land in French ports, it must be done.

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“There must be a counterpart to this British bad faith.”

He added: “The British have nothing to gain by pursuing this course, so I’m quite optimistic about the next few hours.”

Britain welcomed France having “stepped back” from threats to impose punitive action in a dispute over post-Brexit fishing licences as talks to settle the row continue.

Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged a de-escalation from French president Emmanuel Macron as he held off on the action against British boats that he had warned could have been implemented on Tuesday.

But the Cabinet member said a meeting between Brexit minister Lord Frost and France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune in Paris on Thursday would be “very important” as further talks with the EU are also scheduled.

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Meanwhile, Downing Street was forced to clarify a suggestion by Mr Eustice that the British vessel impounded during the diplomatic storm because of “administrative confusion” had been released by France after it emerged it remains in Le Havre.

Mr Macron had warned that Paris could block British boats from landing their catches in French ports and tighten customs checks from midnight in protest at what they claim is a refusal by the UK authorities to grant licences to French boats.

Mr Eustice told Sky News: “We welcome the fact France has stepped back from the threats it was making last Wednesday.

“We’ve always said we want to de-escalate this and always said we have an ever open door to discuss any further evidence France or the EU might have on any additional vessels they’d like to have licensed.

“France has clearly taken a decision not to implement some of the decisions they threatened last Wednesday, we very much welcome that, but I think there’s going to be a very important meeting on Thursday between Lord Frost and his opposite number, not just on fisheries but a wider range of issues as well.”

Mr Eustice told broadcasters he understood the Scottish-registered scallop dredger, the Cornelis Gert Jan, “has now been released” following “administrative confusion” related to a change in the vessel’s engine.

However, officials later acknowledged it remained subject to detention by French authorities in Le Havre.

Macduff Shellfish, the owner of the boat, was under the impression it would remain at Le Havre until at least after a hearing schedule in Rouen on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The vessel concerned remains in port having been detained by the French authorities.”

The European Union said talks convened with officials from France, the UK, Jersey and Guernsey would continue today.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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