Fisheries "an absolute red line" in Brexit talks - Minister
Fisheries – Brexit – Reply by Mme Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the Senate
Paris, 29 January 2020
As you know, as we know, in two days’ time the British are leaving the European Union. But fishermen won’t be leaving British waters, because they have, as you recalled, full access to those waters until at least 31 December 2020. And the British will continue to fully implement the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy until then.
But we must – and you emphasized it very well – prepare the future so that, from Dunkirk to Brest, we can guarantee to those whose job it is and to the whole industry – hauliers, processing sectors – the ability to continue their business.
And so – with Michel Barnier, at the Council of Ministers’ meeting again this morning with the President and Jean-Yves Le Drian, and of course in the discussions Didier Guillaume has had in his strand of negotiation – we’re making fisheries a central issue, a major issue.
It’s an issue on which we must keep an extremely close eye, because I say this very clearly: there must be a fisheries component in the agreement; it’s not an issue where we’ll tolerate any unilateral decisions.
Indeed, fisheries is the most affected, most visible, most iconic sector. And we’re making it an absolute red line. We must protect access to British waters for our fishermen. We must also secure a distribution criterion ensuring we have quotas and protect the resource.
We’ve got to have multiannual arrangements for stock management and we’ve got to have fair competition conditions. This also applies to farmers, because we won’t be able to turn a blind eye to products landing on our plates which don’t comply with our standards. The trade openness we have will depend on the convergence of standards.
So whatever happens, whatever happens, let me tell you: we’ve got 11 months. That’s what the British are telling us. But we won’t sign a bad agreement under timetable pressure. We’ll always give priority to substance, content, balance and fairness.
You also ask me what we’ve planned in terms of contingency. Well, measures were taken in the event of there being no agreement for 31 January, with funds available for businesses forced to close. This isn’t the scenario we envisage and I’d rather, in the coming months, work with you so that the 27 are absolutely united and local players are mobilized at our side. We’re fully mobilized and from next week I’ll be with Sibeth Ndiaye, among others, at Port-en-Bessin in Normandy, because it’s with fishermen that we’ve got to build our strategy.