Post-Brexit trade talks could collapse over fishing rights, French minister warns
Talks over Britain's post-Brexit relationship with the EU could collapse if the bloc is not given access to UK waters, a top French minister has warned.
Speaking to BBC’s Andrew Marr, France’s European Affairs Minister Amélie de Montchalin said there was also the chance of a “nasty battle” ahead if there is no agreement in key areas.
She said: “We’ve linked four subjects. We linked free trade agreement, conditions of competition, governance of the whole deal, and fishing.
“Because we feel we cannot agree on any of these subjects if we cannot agree on the whole of the four points.”
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has already made clear that European fishing boats must have access to UK waters once the current quota system comes to an end in return for a comprehensive free trade agreement with Brussels.
But UK officials have remained insistent that there will be “no alignment” between the two sides, and are resisting calls to tie access to waters to a deal on financial servies.
When asked if a failure to agree on fishing rights could cause the entire deal to collapse, Ms Montchalin said: “Yes, we said there are four topics which are linked in negotiations.”
And she added: “We know how to make it a very nasty battle. Both sides.
“A very nasty battle, where politicians in the UK and politicians in France are put in a situation where things get very difficult. And in the end we will both lose."
Her comments come after a number of senior French politicians cast doubt on the future of a UK-EU agreement.
Last month, President Emmanuel Macron told French fishermen he was “not sure” if a deal could be struck by the December 31st deadline.
He also said fishing rights could be a sticking point in negotiations.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that both sides would “rip each other apart” in upcoming negotiations, with fishing a contentious area.
Ms Montchalin told the BBC that she believed it would be difficult to reach an agreement by the end of the year, when Britain's closely-aligned transition period with the EU comes to an end.
“There is time: if we are consistent, if we go quickly to the reason, to the rationality," she said.
“If we stay at the level of the politics of symbols, of things which are not at the heart of the negotiation, then there is a risk.”