Brexit trade talks will go on into the weekend as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agree to a Sunday deadline. However, the leaders warned that divergences remain on fisheries and trading standards, issues that remain unresolved after nine months of talks. Brussels wants to keep its unfettered access to UK fishing grounds, but the UK Government wants to ensure British boats are prioritised. France has also become a major player in Brexit talks as President Emmanuel Macron threatens to veto a deal over fisheries.
Earlier this year, he vowed to fight for French fishermen, saying they shouldn’t be punished for the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
This week, Paris’ Europe Minister Clément Beaune warned France’s fishermen won’t be “sacrificed”.
At the Senate, Mr Beaune said negotiations felt like “an endless day,” but acknowledged that both parties could “still reach an agreement”.
Mr Beaune added that Mr Johnson had tried on a number of occasions to negotiate directly with Mr Macron or Germany’s Angela Merkel but that the EU rejected such bypassing of the Commission.
He said: “We never gave in to this pressure because our method, the unity of the mandate and the negotiator and the constant full support to [chief EU negotiator] Michel Barnier is the key to our success.
“The [European Council summit] is not an appeals court for the Brexit negotiation.”
As things stand however, a no deal Brexit is looking increasingly likely, and French fishermen have voiced their concern.
Louis Leprtre, a fisherman in Boulogne, told AFP: “How do I see Brexit? A hard Brexit. But we hope there will be some arrangements because otherwise it will be very bad for us.
“We fish 60 to 70 percent on the British side, we hope there will be a deal.
“If Brexit passes, I don’t see much of a future for me. I think I’ll have to retrain for another profession.”
Another fisherman, Vincent Margolle, said: “I’ve been going to sea for about 20 years now.
READ MORE: Brexit fishing chaos: French warned UK ‘will pay price’
“Fishermen here say they won’t allow British fish to be sold in the European market.”
Conservative MP and Brexiteer, Andrew Bridgen, has hit out at the EU’s demands over fisheries and regulation.
The MP for North West Leicestershire told Express.co.uk last month: “It’s like someone renting a property off you, terminating the agreement, and then demanding they keep 80 percent of the back garden.
“Who is going to agree to that? That’s not how it works. It’s absurd.
“There is no court in the world the EU could go to that would uphold their right to keep our sovereign fishing grounds.”