‘Santa Claus’ Macron wades into fishing row as Brexit tensions simmer

Macron's fishing threats would harm 'everybody' says expert

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After the UK issued 23 extra licenses to French fishing boats last week, 73 others are still waiting for theirs. On Friday, delegates from the fishing industry met Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace to discuss the next moves that could be taken to get those 73 permits.

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, known as the Brexit deal signed with the EU, the UK agreed to grant access to boats which could prove they’d historically fished in Britain’s waters.

However, small French vessels that have been doing so for decades have struggled to get their licenses for lack of documents or GPS data.

France is now ready to trigger EU legal action against the UK.

Clément Beaune, Secretary of State for European Affairs, said after the meeting: “We will ask the European Commission in the next few days to initiate a dispute, a legal procedure for the licences to which we are entitled.”

He added that the UK is not “respecting the agreement 100 percent and that we must therefore continue to exert political pressure.”

The European Commission should then gather its partnership council, a special committee created to resolve any problem related to the Brexit deal signed between the UK and the EU.

Gérard Romiti, president of the National Fisheries Committee, said in a statement about Macron: “I think he’s a good Santa Claus for us.

“How can you explain to someone that their father works in England even though he is just 20 minutes to an hour from the coast of Dunkerque or Boulogne?

“We can’t let those families down.”

France argues the boats are well known to the British authorities and that their records are common knowledge.

Mr Romiti previously led a fishermen demonstration that blocked the Channel Tunnel and the port of Calais in November.

He said at the time: “This is our demonstration of the quality and ability of professional fishermen to mobilise in response to the UK’s provocative, contemptuous and humiliating attitude towards them.”

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Annick Girardin, French Minister for the Sea, has also worked on financial support schemes. Some French fishermen have not been able to work as they await their licenses.

She said: “The President would like us to be precise about the plan to support fishermen who will not have had licences, and to work on a case-by-case basis, basin by basin.”

Britain has approved 93 percent of the licences France has applied for but Mr Macron has claimed that UK officials are deliberately withholding another 73.

A British Government source said: “We have licensed vessels where sufficient evidence has been provided to demonstrate they qualify for access under the Brexit deal.

“Where that evidence has not been provided, licences have not been issued.”

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