Brexit: Minister gives reassurances on fisheries, finance and food

United Kingdom – Brexit/fisheries/European Union – Reply by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the Senate

Paris, 13 January 2021

You’re right to emphasize that this agreement is ultimately a good agreement. It wasn’t expected at the end of the negotiations, which were extremely difficult, and you’ve asked several questions about the agreement which I’ll answer briefly.

First of all regarding fisheries, because it’s a significant concern and we didn’t previously think we could reach an agreement on fisheries, because the United Kingdom regarded fisheries as the very symbol of its regained sovereignty. But on fisheries, you’re aware of the agreement and the fact that we were able to both maintain access to British waters and reduce quotas by only 25% by June 2026 – I’ll come back to that – when the British demand was 80%.

So we managed to obtain this, in negotiations which, I believe, were well conducted and were approved by all the 27. That’s a major achievement; there are still a few technical points to resolve, on access to the 6-12 mile zone and on the Channel Islands. The TACs [total allowable catches] will also still have to be negotiated on the basis of the existing ones, and we’ll still have to get to grips with the June 2026 deadline in the best way possible. But we have a whole series of tools to potentially take safeguard measures, retaliatory measures, compensation measures if by any chance we get into difficulty in the negotiations on access to British waters, especially because at the same time, as you know, the energy agreements will be under negotiation between the European Union and the UK.

So with two levers, I think we’ll be in a position in June 2026 to assert our advantages and have the guarantee of maintaining what’s called relative stability in access to waters. As far as services, particularly financial services, are concerned, the situation is very simple: the EU has fully retained its ability unilaterally to issue, on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with its own interests, financial equivalence decisions when they are requested.

Finally, the last observation, among many others which should be made, about the mechanical difficulties of implementing the agreement, in terms of food and supplying a number of British stores and shops: there are inevitably the difficulties of the agreement, but we knew this, we told the British that this wouldn’t be something positive for them.

And then there’s also – to come back to another discussion – the disastrous, sadly disastrous health situation which, ladies and gentlemen senators, you must inform yourselves about before making comparisons with France, a disastrous situation which largely explains the difficulties you mention./.

Published on 14/01/2021

top of the page