Boris Johnson has threatened to walk away from European Union trade talks in June unless Brussels drops demands for its rules and red tape to remain in place, the Government’s negotiating mandate warned. The EU has demanded UK continues allow fleets from inside the bloc access to British waters in order to strike a post-Brexit free trade deal. Downing Street said the UK had twice voted to “take back control” of British waters, firstly in the EU referendum in 2016 and again in December’s general election, and are refusing to give any ground.
The UK would consider a deal on fisheries but insist it must be separate from the main free trade agreement.
It must also be based on the notion “British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats”.
Brussels’ negotiating directives say a future deal should “aim to avoid economic dislocation for European Union fishermen that have traditionally fished in United Kingdom waters”.
But Boris Johnson has insisted he will not compromise with the EU in trade deal talks, and has vowed to protect UK fishermen and do everything possible to “take back control” of the waters.
Speaking at Chatham House about the “future of the UK-EU and UK-France relationships”, France’s Europe minister Amélie de Montchalin sent another warning to the UK over fishing access to EU vessels.
She said: “These fishes are fished by everybody and they will move.”
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned after European ministers agreed to red lines for the negotiations in a meeting on Tuesday that fishing rights must be included in the deal or there “won’t be any agreement at all”.
Setting out the EU’s position on linking fish, trade and the UK respecting Brussels’ rules, he said: “The trade agreement will be associated with a fisheries agreement and an agreement about a level playing field or there won’t be any agreement at all.”
But Downing Street hit back, insisting the UK will determine whether EU fishing boats can access British waters.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The UK did not vote twice to take back control of its fishing waters only to give that control up again.
“As a matter of fact, it doesn’t matter what the EU puts in its mandate as we become an independent coastal state on December 31 2020.”
The spokesman added: “This does not have to be negotiated, nor will it be.
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“Any access by non-UK vessels to fish in UK waters will be for us to determine.”
Emmanuel Macron said Mr Johnson “has a card in his hand and it is fishing”.
But the French President also insisted he will do everything possible to protect his country’s fishermen.
Earlier this week, Amélie de Montchalin warned France will not sign an unfavourable post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK by the end of the transition period on December 31 just for the sake of meeting Mr Johnson’s state deadline.
She insisted in a video posted to her Twitter account that France wants to reach a “good” Brexit deal but warned the country will not give in to pressure in the shape of a punishing time schedule.
The country’s Europe minister echoed those comments during her speech at Chatham House this morning, insisting the EU would not accept “artificial deadlines” in talks after the Prime Minister threatened to walk away from them in June if insufficient progress has been made.
Ms de Montchalin also accused Mr Johnson of trying to cherry-pick a preferred trade deal and continued to question the UK’s insistence on agreeing their future relationship before the end of the year.
She told the audience: “We did not accept cherry-picking from the UK in the first half of negotiations, we will not accept it now.”
France’s Europe minister also warned “Brexit has consequences – there is no such thing as Brexit only in name” and added the UK will lose out on several benefits when it leaves the single market.
But she insisted: “Our aim is, of course, not to punish or take any revenge on the UK.”
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