Macron admits Boris holds ‘fishing card’ but warns trade deal unlikely by end of this year

The French president highlighted his unease during a visit to the Paris International Agricultural Fair, saying he was not sure “there will be a global agreement on Brexit by the end of the year.” Britain officially left the European Union on January 31, placing the country into a transition period until the end of the year. It is now down to Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to negotiate a new trading relationship with the European Union, having already ruled out extending the implementation period.

But, it appears Mr Macron is willing to put up a fight over the critical issue of fishing.

He told French fishing industry representatives: “Boris Johnson has a card in his hand and it is fishing.”

Opening the event, Mr Macron promised to defend French fishermen and protect European farm subsidies.

He also advocated for a large budget for the European bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

France is the main beneficiary of this programme.

He said: “On the CAP we defend an ambitious budget.

“CAP cannot be the adjustment variable of Brexit – we need to support our farmers.

“We did not yield to those who wanted to reduce the budget.”

Mr Macron also expressed he would make attempts to secure compensation for wine producers hit by US tariffs.

This is an issue which the French president has previously backed, and said he has raised with the European Commission.

Jerome Despey, Secretary General of France’s main farmer’s union, the FNSEA, revealed after the event that Mr Macron had pledged to get compensation for US tariffs in place by Spring.

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He added the sector has feared it could lose up to 400 million euros in sales annually in its main export market if the 25 percent tariff imposed by the US in October were to remain in place.

Mr Macron’s comments come in the wake of a letter the French president received from regional officials.

Presidents of the councils of Hauts-de-France, Normandy and Brittany have expressed their fear over Britain regaining “control over their territorial waters” in a Brexit trade deal.

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.”

Mr Macron recently told newspapers he would set the agenda at the negotiating table regarding fishing.

He said: “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.”

In early February, Mr Johnson said the UK was “ready” to agree a deal on fishing with the EU.

He suggested annual negotiations could take place in order to reach a suitable agreement.

Mr Johnson has also repeatedly said the UK will become an “independent coastal state” post-Brexit.

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