By Michel Rose and Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS/PARIS, Oct 7 (Reuters) - A French EU lawmaker who
chairs the European Parliament's fisheries committee told
Reuters there could be no annual quota negotiation in a trade
deal with Britain, sticking to a tough line from Paris that
could make a Brexit deal more difficult.
The EU and Britain are locked in crunch negotiations to get
a deal on a post-Brexit trade ties in place before an end-year
deadline. Agreement on fish is one of three stumbling blocks.
The EU wants to secure consistent rights to fish in British
waters, an issue important for France where coastal fishing
communities are politically influential. Britain wants a deal
more like that of non-EU member Norway, under which quotas are
set each year.
Two EU diplomatic sources said other member states in the
bloc are trying to get France to compromise. But, speaking to
Reuters, the EU Parliament's fisheries committee's chairman,
Pierre Karleskind, said avoiding annual negotiations over access
and quotas was one of "our red lines".
"Who will invest in a fishing boat worth 3 million euros if
they don't know whether they have the right to fish in two years
time?" said Karleskind, a member of French President Emmanuel
Macron's liberal bloc. The EU parliament must approve any deal.
The bloc has long said annual fishing quota negotiations are
unacceptable, but sources have signalled a possible compromise.
Germany, which wants a trade deal to prevent tariffs hurting
its automakers, is seen as pushing for a deal on fish. Britain
and Norway reached a separate fishing agreement, which German
Chancellor Angela Merkel said proves "agreements can be found".
Some diplomats in the bloc told Reuters France would need to
budge if there is to be a deal.
"The French realise full well that their demands on
fisheries were unrealistic. We need them to climb down at some
point," said an EU diplomat who follows Brexit and spoke under
condition of anonymity.
Karleskind said some countries at last week's EU summit had
initially voiced a "vague" willingness to compromise on fishing,
but that even those with no claims in the North Sea understood
unity was important.
"They quickly get back into line as soon as we start
talking about it," he said. "You could ask 'why should Greece
care about fishing in the North Sea?'. But if we show weakness
in the face of claims in the North Sea, what signal are we
sending to Turkey in the Mediterranean?"
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier met Merkel on Monday and
is also due to meet French President Emmanuel Macron. EU sources
said one purpose of the meetings is to ease French reluctance to
compromise. Barnier is also due to call EU fisheries ministers
including in Denmark, Ireland, Germany and Poland.
Britain and the EU made considerable progress in talks last
week, including on aligning social benefits, according to
sources in the EU who were left believing an agreement was
But there was no breakthrough on fisheries or the other two
most contentious issues - fair competition and ways to settle
disputes. The two sides have given until mid-October to assess
if a deal is in the making, but sources told Reuters the EU is
gearing up to keep negotiating until as late as mid-November.
(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by)