Michel Barnier gets poissonous: UK is accused of holding French fishermen ‘hostage’ as row over access to waters escalates
- Michel Barnier, the EU’s former chief negotiator on Brexit, accuses Britain of ‘taking French fishermen hostage’
- His comments come after France fails to win wider EU support for its hardline stance on fishing rights
- The UK Government has defended its approach as ‘reasonable and fully in line’ with the Brexit deal
Britain was last night accused of ‘taking French fishermen hostage’ by the EU’s former Brexit negotiator.
Michel Barnier demanded the UK stick to its promises made under the agreement the Frenchman drew up with Lord Frost.
In a thinly-veiled reference to the logistical woes gripping the UK, Mr Barnier said: ‘Taking hostage the fishing rights of a few small boats in the Channel will not solve Britain’s Brexit problems.’
Michel Barnier demanded the UK stick to its promises made under the Brexit agreement
France and ten other EU members have called for a common front against Britain over its handling of a row with Paris over post-Brexit fishing licences in its waters. Pictured: French fishermen empty a fishing net in the North Sea
The 70-year-old – who harbours hopes of challenging Emmanuel Macron in next year’s presidential elections – added: ‘The Johnson government must respect its signature and international responsibilities, both in spirit and letter.’
His comments came after France failed to win support from other EU governments to back its hardline stance on fishing.
Mr Macron’s government accused Britain of ‘a clear failure to comply’ with the pact hammered out by Mr Barnier last year.
But a majority of member states only agreed on a watered-down version of this statement, calling for ‘further work’ to be done on solving the spat.
British negotiators are currently holding ‘vessel by vessel’ talks with senior Eurocrats.
But a senior EU diplomat warned: ‘I think given the recent history with Britain, we will probably decide to side with the EU partner, rather than a former member state.’
French skippers accuse Britain of deliberately creating an overly complicated application process to prevent them from gaining access to catch-rich waters.
A UK Government spokesman said: ‘The Government has granted 98 per cent of licence applications from EU vessels to fish in our waters.
‘Our approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Brexit deal.’
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