Macron crushed as Brittany and Hauts-de-France rely on UK waters for 50 percent of catches

Macron slams 'defeatist' attitudes used towards EU

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On the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death last week, escalating tensions about the price of fish saw Britain and France embroiled in a bitter standoff in Jersey. On Wednesday, the Royal Navy sent two patrol vessels there to intervene in a possible blockade by the French fishing fleet, which is furious about reduced access to Channel Islands waters. Earlier in the day, France had threatened to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply – a bellicose threat certain to draw a response.

Jersey is a British crown dependency, but it’s only 19km off the coast of France and around 250 French boats regularly fish the waters around the island – supporting around 900 families and another 2,000 jobs on shore.

As part of Brexit-related fishing talks it was agreed that French boats which had habitually fished around Jersey would be allowed to continue doing so – but would need new licences.

Because of Jersey’s unusual status – owned by the British crown but not actually part of the UK – these licences come from Jersey authorities, not the Government in London.

But the fishermen say that when they received their licenses they had new requirements and limitations which were not part of the agreement – with some fishermen licensed to fish for just one or two weeks out of the year.

The row has now deescalated but it highlighted just how damaging the Brexit deal was for Emmanuel Macron’s France.

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In a report for the Brexit think tank ‘Red Cell’ titled ‘Putting The Fisheries Negotiations Into Context’ and published in March last year, Dimitri de Vismes, delegate for the French UPR party in the UK, explained just how much France’s fishing industry is dependent on UK waters.

He wrote: “The UK has the fifth largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world (approximately 6.8m square kilometres) and the EEZ surrounding the United Kingdom represents 11 percent of the total surface, with some 774,000 square kilometres (the rest being EEZs in crown dependencies or British Overseas Territories).

“Putting aside Norway, which is outside of EU marine management, the UK EEZ is the greatest ‘shared’ EEZ operating under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in Northern Europe.

“By comparison, France’s EEZ in Continental Europe represents about half the size of the United Kingdom’s EEZ, with approx. 335,000 square kilometres, despite France having the second largest EEZ zone in the world – approximately 10.2million square kilometres – because of its numerous territories and overseas departments on all the oceans.

“UK waters are also particularly rich of seafood resource, as 40 percent of the total EU catches take place in the UK’s EEZ but mainly exploited by UK’s neighbour countries.”

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Because of these factors, and the geographical proximity between the two countries, Mr de Vismes noted, France’s fishing industry is now “heavily dependent” on UK waters.

He added: “In fact, out of the three main traditional fishing regions: Normandy, Brittany and Hauts-de-France – which all together represent 75 percent of the French fishing industry – two of them (Brittany and Hauts-de-France) rely on the UK waters for more than 50 percent of their catches.

“Overall, it is estimated that France receives approximately 30 percent of its catches in the UK’s EEZ.

“This explains why the absence of a good fishing agreement post-Brexit could be very damaging for French fishermen.

“As it would also be for Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Germany which are all fishing in UK waters.”

According to Mr de Visme, French fishermen should get significant compensation from the EU budget, because “it would be the EU’s direct responsibility to redress the imbalance”.

He noted: “The EU caused it, after all.”

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In an exclusive interview with, French MEP Philippe Olivier argued French interests were completely overlooked during the Brexit talks, particularly when it came to fishing.

Mr Olivier, who also serves as special advisor to National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen, claimed an agreement on fishing struck between France and Britain alone would have been a better solution.

He said: “Germany totally dominates the EU and it really doesn’t care about the problems of fisheries…

“So when they started off with the negotiations, fishing problems were not actually taken that much into consideration.

“I am not aware of how exactly the negotiations went, but all I can say is that our interests, the interests of French fishermen were not high up on the agenda.

“It seems like with the decrease of 25 percent the deal is far from being perfect.

“It is an agreement that we hope can be changed in the future.”

Mr Olivier then noted: “This subject shows something very important and that is the agreement on fishing should have been struck directly between France and the UK.

“It shows how important bilateral relations are to get the best agreements.”

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