Michel Barnier scrambles to save hapless French fishermen: ‘I am at their disposal’

Brexit is a 'failure' for the EU says Michel Barnier

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During a visit to Brittany this weekend, the former EU chief negotiator also said the UK was showing “ill will” towards post-Brexit fishing rights in a direct threat to the UK Government. Mr Barnier is touring several French regions ahead of crunch elections later this month and the Express understands the move to support French fishermen in relation to Brexit has the support of Paris.

France, the UK and Jersey have been at loggerheads over fishing rights in waters around Jersey and the wider English Channel.

French fishermen protested about Jersey introducing new fishing licences after April 30th for vessels whilst the UK has come under fire for allegedly not giving out fishing licences to eligible boats.

EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic will meet Brexit minister Lord Frost next week to discuss the matter, as part of the EU joint committee.

Mr Barnier said French fishermen were “right to express their dissatisfaction” stressing: “I am with them and I will remain so, I am at their disposal.”

He added: “We signed a very specific agreement with the British, which they negotiated until the last moment.

“It is not ideal, neither for us nor for them, but it is correct and balanced, which should allow us to work in good harmony.”

The EU chief negotiator, who spearheaded the securing of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement said the EU would have the right to introduce “compensatory measures” if a “satisfactory resolution” is not reached next week.

He added: “We can reinstate tariffs on certain fishery products, or even suspend the agreement.


“The French government and the European Commission must be firm, vigilant and active on all of this.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian pledged Paris will use “coercive measures” against the UK to ensure Westminster plays by the Brexit agreement’s fishing rules.

He claimed the UK “unilaterally do not respect” commitments agreed as part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed by the EU and the United Kingdom on December 24th.

In a letter to regional fishing chiefs, he added: “The British, unilaterally and without any prior consultation, do not respect the commitments made within the framework of the agreement.

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“They interpret the stipulations in such a way as to empty them of their substance or even impose new conditions not only not foreseen in the agreement but which moreover are in contradiction with the spirit of the said agreement ”.

But sources close to Lord Frost said the UK was committed to working with the EU as a “responsible independent coastal state”.

A UK Government source added to this publication: “We look forward to discussing these matters with the EU in due course.”

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