A French MEP revealed the panic gripping Brussels, as he warned that Britain’s fisheries proposals would be devastating to the EU. François-Xavier Bellamy made the remarks, following suggestions that the EU was willing to shift its stance on fisheries in negotiations with Britain next week. Mr Bellamy told the European People’s Party (EPP) bloc this week that fisheries was “not just a detail in the Brexit deal but a decisive issue”.
He said: “We do not want an agreement with the UK if there is not a fisheries agreement which allows in the long term a balanced and stable way to continue to share reciprocal access to waters and resources.
“What we must have in this agreement is the guarantee that European fishermen will be able to continue to access the British waters.
“Today, it is in these waters that about 40 percent of European fishing is carried out.
“And so, if we could no longer access, these waters and resources, it would obviously be a considerable loss for European fishing.”
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The French centre-right MEP and member of Barnier’s Les Républicains party added: “The British export a very large part of their products to the European markets.
“We could do a lot of harm to each other and cause a lot of social and economic damage.
“No fisheries agreement means no post-Brexit agreement. It is decisive. This is a major economic issue since 250,000 jobs are affected by fishing at European level in the 27 member states
“We do not want to have to renegotiate a new agreement every year. That is the British idea. For us it would be devastating.”
An EU official told Reuters this week: “There have been hints of a possible reconciliation.
“We would be looking to shift on demands to keep everything as is now, a somewhat maximalist opening position, if the UK also moved from its position of coastal attachment. That’s where the room for compromise lies.”
Despite this, the European parliament’s fisheries committee threatened to veto any deal with the UK that did not include a “balanced” agreement on fish quotas, allowing EU fleets continue access to British waters.
France’s EU affairs minister, Amelie de Montchalin, also said there was currently no reason for it to change its position on fisheries.
However, she added that Paris was willing to listen and consider any new proposal from London.