Macron Fishing in Troubled Waters as UK-EU Talks on NI Protocol Make Slow Progress
15:01 GMT 20.11.2021 (Updated: 19:28 GMT 03.11.2022)
Emmanuel Macron's tough talk on his country's dispute with the UK and its island dependency Jersey came a day after delicate talks between London and Brussels on the problematic Northern Ireland Protocol finally began to show signs of progress.
French President Emmanuel Macron
has vowed not to back down in a row over fishing permits with the island of Jersey.
"We have not got what we wanted. They are playing with our nerves", Macron said in the northern French commune of Aulnoye-Aymeries on Saturday, insisting: "We will not yield".
The town on the border with Belgium is far removed from the site of the dispute in the Channel Islands off the Cherbourg Peninsula.
The UK has granted permits to over 1,700 vessels from EU member states to fish in its vast maritime exclusive economic zone post-Brexit.
is angry that the autonomous British Crown Dependency of Jersey has turned down some 50 applications for small boats to fish around the island bailiwick, on the basis that there is no history of their owners or their ancestors doing so before.
Paris has made as-yet unfulfilled threats
of sanctions in response, including holding up British imports and even halting sales of electricity from its nuclear reactor network to the UK if authorities in the 100,000-inhabitant archipelago do not back down.
Macron's bellicose comments came less than 24 hours after Britain's chief negotiator with European Union Lord David Frost and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic tentatively hailed progress in difficult talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol to the post-Brexit trade deal.
The protocol, which leaves the six counties of Northern Ireland inside the EU's common market in the name of safeguarding the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, has restricted the transport of goods from mainland Britain including medicines, potted plants and chilled meats — in what has been dubbed the "Sausage War".
7 November 2021, 11:05 GMT
Frost said in a tweeted statement on Friday afternoon that "intensive and constructive talks" had taken place since last week and there was "potential to generate some momentum". And he welcomed Sefcovic's speech that morning, in which he acknowledged that the protocol had "led to unintended consequences in Northern Ireland."
There had been progress on medicines, Frost said, but no agreement had yet been reached. "We have not yet made substantive progress on the fundamental customs and SPS [food and plants] issues relating to goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland", he added.
Sefkovic called the talks "a real test of political goodwill" and stressed the need to "deliver on the issues raised by Northern Irish stakeholders" — a clear concession to the unionist community which fiercely opposes
a customs border down the Irish Sea.
"We urge the UK government to make a clear move towards us in the area of sanitary and phytosanitary controls to reciprocate the big move made by the EU", the commissioner said, claiming its proposals would cut "identity and physical checks" on goods by 80 percent.