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21 Dec, 2020 16:00

France sticking to Brexit ‘red lines’ over fishing and level playing field as UK-EU talks drag on

France sticking to Brexit ‘red lines’ over fishing and level playing field as UK-EU talks drag on

The French government says its Brexit demands, including maintaining unfettered access to UK fishing grounds, will remain unchanged, as Britain continues last-minute trade talks with the EU.

Spokesman Gabriel Attal told a news briefing “we certainly have red lines” on the ‘level playing field’ issue and the question of EU fishing quotas in British waters.

Progress in the talks has continuously stalled over fish and fair competition rules for businesses on both sides.

The UK and EU are continuing talks on Monday after their respective negotiators, David Frost and Michel Barnier, failed to reach an agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal in Brussels on Sunday.

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Members of the European Parliament had set Barnier a deadline of Sunday to reach an agreement, but French European Affairs Junior Minister Clement Beaune warned against “sacrificing everything” for the sake of a rushed deal.

France, which is among several EU countries that rely on fishing in British waters, has warned Barnier not to “yield to Britain’s pressure.”

The UK wants larger quotas for itself and for them to be reviewed annually.

In a possible sign that Brussels’ stance had softened, Barnier said on Sunday that both the UK and EU must have “the right to set their own laws and control their own waters.”

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French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that he hopes to maintain strong ties with the UK after Brexit, while also stressing the importance of protecting “the integrity of the European single market.”

Britain is trying to reach a deal with the EU by December 31, when it stops trading according to the rules of the 27-nation bloc, with any agreement still needing to be approved by the parliaments of both sides.

If the UK misses this deadline, it will adopt World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week.

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