Minister urges vigilance implementing UK-EU fisheries deal

Brexit – Meeting with fisheries stakeholders – Press conference by M. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs – Introductory remarks (excerpts)

Lorient, 4 January 2021

Thank you, Minister, cher Jean-Yves; I’m very pleased to be alongside you today in Lorient, your home, as it were. We – the whole Government, the President – made a commitment that fisheries wouldn’t be an adjustment variable in these Brexit negotiations. That commitment has been honoured. We’ve come to explain it, talk, report, because it’s also legitimate following this agreement – lengthy, complicated negotiations, an agreement which itself is sometimes complex and still contains a number of question marks – to be able to talk, explain, understand and also plan for the future, for the benefit of the fishing industry in particular but, more broadly, the economic interests of Brittany and France, which we tirelessly defended in these negotiations.

I want to say this agreement also shows – it was one of the discussion points this morning – the strength of cooperation, European cooperation. The agreement is better for the European Union than for the United Kingdom, because Europe was strong, it was united, it defended its interests to the last. I think the whole fishing industry can testify to that. And I also want to pay tribute to the collective work that was done. This result – which still has to be consolidated and improved – was achieved because the whole profession, every elected representative, every local authority, the Government and the President made active efforts, from 2016 until the last day of 2020, to secure what is a good agreement.

We’ve now had the time of reaching the agreement and of relief, a kind of satisfaction; we heard it this morning in the discussion Jean-Yves Le Drian mentioned. Now is the time for stringency and vigilance in implementing the agreement, to check that all those positive points are properly applied. We’re being vigilant in these hours and days to ensure access is given in the 6-12-mile zone; this must still be the case, as Jean-Yves Le Drian recalled. We’re fighting for this because there’s no good agreement without proper and full implementation.

And also, because there’s also a future, a second stage to prepare, to prepare together, we kicked it off this morning with this discussion, because beyond six fishing seasons, five-and-a-half years during which quotas are guarantees for European and French fisheries, we’ll have to build the future with the UK. And I also believe – because we were talking about cooperation – that this agreement is good because it showed European cooperation, it defended our collective interests, it maintained European unity and it also gives us a working framework with the UK and also with British fishermen, who, as everyone said, are not the enemy but people with whom we must also build a balanced and sustainable relationship. (…)

There will be vigilance and stringency, and then there will be support, because there’s a number of adjustments, a new framework for action and, indeed, the situation isn’t the same as before. And so we’ll have to provide support. Annick Girardin, the Minister of Marine Affairs, has already put forward – this was the Prime Minister’s pledge – a support plan for the whole sector, going beyond the recovery plan; it’s very important to work with the whole sector. We’ll adjust it in line with the discussions with the industry professionals – we started this morning – in the coming weeks and months, to ensure that this plan, this agreement, constitutes the future framework for a sector we deeply believe in, and for the defence of our economic, political and territorial interests in the future relationship with the UK, which began at the start of this year.

Among other things, this support – as Jean-Yves Le Drian mentioned – will include a very substantial European fund, fervently negotiated by France, of €5 billion, which will benefit mainly the fisheries sector, the money from which will be available very soon, without delay. The French support plan, which the Ministry of Marine Affairs put forward, will provide support in tackling all the potential difficulties of these first few weeks and months. But as all the industry professionals said, M. Le Nézet in particular, we aren’t trying to compensate losses, we’re trying to build a future and plan ahead. And it was this message of hope, commitment and fighting – because it’s a battle which still needs to be fought – that we championed together this morning, fighting [it] symbolically in Lorient today and, as you said, we or others will very soon return to report back again on the next stage of this work, because a new chapter is being written. Thank you very much./.

Published on 07/01/2021

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