Discussions “will continue” between France, the UK and the European Commission, Macron said on the sidelines of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, ruling out the application of retaliatory measures because “it’s not while we’re negotiating that we’re going to impose sanctions”.
The UK’s Brexit minister David Frost said he had accepted an offer from French Europe Minister Clément Beaune to meet in Paris. “I look forward to our talks in Paris on Thursday,” Frost tweeted.
Announcing the invitation to Frost to come for “in-depth discussions”, Beaune tweeted that Britain had sent “the first signals… to accelerate exchanges”.
— Clement Beaune (@CBeaune) November 1, 2021
France had vowed to subject British imports to tighter controls starting from Tuesday, in a bitter row over fishing rights that has grown since Brexit took full effect at the start of the year.
It had said it would prevent British fishermen offloading their catches in French ports, after Britain and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey declined to issue dozens of French boats with licences to fish in their waters after Brexit.
In a statement, a UK government spokesperson added: “We welcome the French government’s announcement that they will not go ahead with implementing their proposed measures as planned tomorrow.
“As we have said consistently, we are ready to continue intensive discussions on fisheries, including considering any new evidence to support the remaining license applications,” the spokesperson said.
“We welcome France’s acknowledgement that in-depth discussions are needed to resolve the range of difficulties in the UK/EU relationship.”
Macron said he had “confidence in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take seriously” the French proposals and for the discussions to lead to a “result”.
“For 10 months the results have been too slow, if this new method allows us to have a result, I hope we will give it a chance,” he said.
Britain has also threatened to step up inspections of EU fishing vessels.
The head of the regional fisheries committee of France’s northern Hauts-de-France region, Olivier Lepretre said on Monday he feared that fishermen would be turned back from British waters “over the slightest issue.”
If provoked, he said, French fishermen, who have staged protests in Channel ports in recent months, would “show some muscle” and carry out further action.
France says that dozens of French fishermen are waiting for licences to ply waters between six and 12 miles from British shores, and in particular around Jersey.
After talks with Johnson on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Rome on Sunday, Macron said the two leaders had agreed to work on “practical and operational measures” but insisted: “The ball is in Britain’s court.”
Johnson however denied that Britain’s position had changed, insisting France must back down first.
A day earlier he had complained to EU chief Ursula von der Leyen over the “completely unjustified” French threats and raised the possibility of invoking a Brexit dispute tool for the first time, drawing the EU into the row.