The presidents of the regional councils of Hauts-de-France, Normandy and Brittany have asked for further discussions to take place with the UK after its exit from the European bloc on January 31. Xavier Bertrand, Herve Morin and Long Chesnais-Girad wrote: “We must, at all costs, avoid a fishermen’s battle.” The main fear expressed within the letter is that British officials will decide to “regain control over their territorial waters” in a future trade deal after Brexit.
But the officials have described this as a “death sentence”.
They wrote: “A number of local communities depend on fishing.
“The vast majority of their catches are made in British waters.
“Denying them access would mean signing their near-death sentence.”
The French officials have therefore urged their country to act on a European level to defend the interests of fishermen.
They believe a “firm and constructive” dialogue is the only way to negotiate a good deal for France.
France currently carries out 30 percent of their turnover in British waters, which are said to be very full of fish.
The news of the letter comes as French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian said fishing would be an “absolute priority” in negotiations between the EU and the UK.
The minister made the comments during the inauguration of a new training centre for a shipping company, Brittany Ferries.
He said: “Fishing is not a subject like the others, it has always been a political subject in Europe.
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“In no case can fishing be used as an adjustment variable in the negotiations.”
Mr Le Drian went on to insist it was necessary to have a global agreement on fishing, which covers all areas.
He warned that if Britain expected to keep “one foot inside, one foot outside” of the EU, they would be sorely mistaken.
He added: “No. Both feet will be outside.”
At a national level, French president Emmanuel Macron has said he will fight the corner of French fisherman in EU negotiations.
He told newspapers: “I want to tell our fisherman that I will fight for them.
“If we do not get the same access as today, we will seek compensation.
“I will not let our fishermen be impacted by a British vote they could do nothing about.”
Current fishing rules allow EU boats to come as close as six nautical miles to Britain’s coast.
But this has been thrown up into the air with the exit of the UK from the European bloc.
In January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, that Britain would insist on “maintaining control of UK fishing waters” in any future deal.
Fishing has been seen as one of the main points of contention in the UK-EU trade deal.
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