Emmanuel Macron tried to push other European Union leaders to agree to a much harsher position on access to British waters in the aftermath of Brexit. Brussels has insisted any trade deal with the UK should include the continuation of current arrangements for fishermen, a move London has been trying to push back on. But in addition to the opposition of fellow leaders, Mr Macron appears now to be up against his own fishermen as one signalled the fleets will accept being excluded from UK waters.
Boulogne-sur-Mer, where Mr Pinto operates from, is France’s largest fishing port and is heavily dependent on seafood caught in British waters.
Both the UK and the EU have conceded fishing does not have a great impact on their overall GDPs but the issue has slowly become a highly symbolic issue.
President Macron insisted his hard stance is not solely based on fisheries, claiming the two sides are “stumbling over everything.”
In a press conference earlier this week, he said: “The state of our talks is not that we are stumbling over the issue of fishing, which is the tactical argument made by the British, but we’re stumbling over everything.
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“You must look at the social impact and our goal is very clear.
“We want to reach a stable, sustainable and long-term agreement on fisheries which enables the UK to further develop its fishing opportunities while ensuring the sustainable use of resources and protecting the activities of EU fishermen and women.”
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier reportedly admitted fisheries remains the only concerning issue remaining on the negotiating table with the UK.
Mr Barnier is understood to have told EU officials he “wasn’t worried about anything else but the fish” during a private dinner earlier in the week.
One EU diplomat told Reuters: “Fish is now the thing to tackle. The other elements seem doable more or less.”