France ‘will not be blackmailed or rushed into a bad Brexit deal’

France 'will not be blackmailed or rushed into a bad Brexit deal'
France's Europe Minister Amelie de Montchalin is travelling to Brussels then London. Photo: AFP
France 'will not sign up to a bad trade deal just to suit Boris Johnson's Brexit timetable'.

That was the stern message from France's Europe Minister Amelie de Montchalin as she heads to Brussels and then London at the start of post-Brexit trade talks.

She said that she had a clear message on Brexit: “Just because Boris Johnson wants a deal at all costs by December 31st, we will not sign a bad deal for the French under the pressure of blackmail or timing.”


She added that protecting French fishermen, farmers and businesses was key for France.

Negotiations are now beginning for a trade deal between the UK and the EU after the end of the transition period – which currently ends on December 31st.

There is an option to extend the transition period if the UK requests it but British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ruled that out, despite many experts warning that achieving a full trade deal in just 11 months will be extremely difficult.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with French president Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP

De Montchalin was echoing the words of her boss, French president Emmanuel Macron, who on Saturday said: “I am not sure that an agreement will be reached between now and the end of the year.”

He too stressed that fishing rights would be a key point of the negotiations.

Tensions have already flared over fishing rights when the island of Guernsey attempted to ban French fishermen from its waters after the UK left the EU on January 31st. After a week, French fishermen were then issued licences by Guernsey authorities.

France and several other countries want to be able to keep fishing in British waters, while London wants full autonomy and limited access for European fishermen.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the EU's top priorities are fishing, security and maintaining fair trading conditions for European companies.

He has also firmly rejected a British suggestion that City of London companies could be given broad, permanent access to EU markets without conditions.

Overall, French fishing boats generate 30 percent of their revenue from catches in British maritime territories, particularly rich in fish stocks.

French officials say that the UK exports the bulk of its catch to Europe, indicating that British fishermen have plenty to lose if the two sides fail to reach a deal.

Even if the UK and EU are unable to reach a deal on trade, the Withdrawal Agreement – which protects the rights of British people living in France – is still a legally binding agreement.

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