UK issues veiled threat to France over no-deal Brexit plans

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron during the British prime minister's recent meeting with the French president. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

The UK government has issued a veiled threat over French fishing rights in British waters, as a minister called for more “generous” rights for Brits in France after Brexit.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is pressing for further talks with French officials to “mitigate” the risks involved in a no-deal Brexit, which looks increasingly likely with just two months until the UK’s planned exit date.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the French government’s offer on British citizens rights after Brexit “falls short” of what the UK had offered French citizens if Britain leaves without a deal on 31 October.

He said French nationals had until the end of 2020 to apply for settled status, but the French government was only granting British nationals a six-month period to apply for a residence permit.

Brits also face a €119 (£107, $131) fee whereas such costs have been waived for French citizens in Britain, Barclay said in a pre-released text of his speech in front of business leaders scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

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Barclay called for a better offer from the French government before warning that access to UK waters “falls entirely within our control” after a no-deal Brexit.

“That, of course, has a potential impact on the French fishing industry. Of the 250,000 tonnes of fish processed in Boulogne, the majority comes from UK waters and of the fish landed by French vessels, 40 per cent of it comes from UK waters,” he said.

The minister also hit out at EU officials for their refusal to agree a specific plan to protect citizens’ rights outside the withdrawal agreement drawn up with former prime minister Theresa May.

“EU leaders repeatedly tell me how important citizens’ rights are to them but not only has the commission refused to agree a specific deal on citizens’ rights – as requested by all political parties in the UK Parliament - the offer here in France falls short of what we have set out in the UK in several respects,” he added.

Barclay’s speech was in Paris at a conference held by Mouvement des Entreprises de France (MEDEF), the biggest employers’ federation in France.

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