France fishing row about 'poll pressure' says expert
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Emmanuel Macron has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Boris Johnson after weeks of rising tensions over the number of permits Brexit Britain has issued to French vessels to fish in UK waters. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Rome at the weekend to attempt to iron out the issue, agreeing to deescalate the rhetorics. Broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer savaged President Macron for his conduct in recent weeks, dismissing his threats to the UK as an attempt to salvage his re-election chances after polls indicated chanced of a significant slump in support.
Ms Hartley-Brewer said: “If we were granting like four licenses and we weren’t sticking to our side of the deal, then you could understand we were in the wrong.
“But clearly, there are obviously some administrative issues here, probably some bureaucratic issues, which can surely be resolved with a little bit of delicacy and diplomacy rather than this letter from Castex to the Commission President, rather than the war of words from Emmanuel Macron and his threats.
“Talk of cutting off electricity to Jersey, and the stopping British boats landing on the French coasts and stopping lorries, checking lots of goods.
“These are not the acts of a country that wants to come to a resolution.”
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Questioning Hautes de France representative to the UK Artus Galiay, Ms Hartley-Brewer added: “Is this, as many suspect in the UK, just about Emmanuel Macron facing pressure in the polls, worrying about who he’s going to face in the run-off of the election next spring?
“Trying to establish his strong credentials.”
The French politician conceded the language France has been using in recent weeks had not been conducive to finding a resolution and insisted the two sides should follow the process agreed in the post-Brexit trade and cooperation agreement to avoid a confrontation.
Mr Galiay said: “It’s really about goodwill, or lack thereof.
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“And especially a lack of strong political dialogue that France and the UK should be having currently. This is no way for a nuclear power to behave with another nuclear power.
“There’s a treaty that has been signed with a process inside so this needs to be followed if there are issues.
“In that specific fish issue, this process can actually be followed.”
President Macron on Sunday appeared to be standing firm however on pushing ahead with retaliatory action unless the UK agreed to a relaxation of the terms for securing a fishing licence.
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In a post-G20 meeting, the French leader said: “The ball is now in their court.
“If the British don’t do any significant move, measures starting from November 2 will need to be implemented.
“I would deplore it. But what we cannot do is not respond and not defend our fishermen.”
The UK Government has insisted the action being proposed by France breaks international law and is not compatible with the trade deal stuck with Brussels last year.
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