The French president said “the interests of fisherman will be taken into account” during Brexit negotiations after the industry voiced concerns about not being allowed to access British waters.
British fisherman have campaigned for the UK’s Brexit negotiators to return Britain’s territorial waters to them and block European firms from operating there.
The French fishing port of Lorient currently sees a turnover 26,882 tonnes of fish, 12,551 tonnes of which comes from British waters.
As Britain leaves the EU, it will likely also leave the political project’s Common Fisheries Policy, which allows member states’ fisherman to operate and compete fairly across the shared waters.
Emmanuel Macron vowed to defend France's right to fish in UK waters
The interests of fisherman will be taken into account and defended in a serious way
Lorient’s fishermen will be watching the Brexit talks closely, which kick off 11 days after Britain’s June 8 General Election, hoping Brussels can manage to negotiate them access to British waters.
Addressing fisherman in Lorient, the French president tried to ease their concerns and vowed to defend them against Brexit.
Mr Macron said: “I would like to say that in negotiations that France will have the 27 member countries that remain in the EU, the interests of fisherman will be taken into account in a serious way as an industry that is among the most essential economic activities to our country, which we must defend.”
It is expected that France will claim its fishing industry has a historic link with British waters and was the first EU import of British sea products.
A spokesman from the Maritime Fisheries Committees of Brittany added: “The French government must pledge to defend with the utmost firmness professional fishermen.
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“The sector wants to be better represented in the political bodies, in France and in Europe.”
Ukip’s fisheries spokesman Mike Hookem issued a hands-off warning to the French, insisting bullies in Brussels cannot force the UK to give up its fishing rights.
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He said: “While the French may think they can have their gang of EU bully boys force the UK to giving up our fishing rights, we have international law on our side.
“The simple fact is, unless Theresa May barters away our fishing grounds, we have the right under the UN’s UNCLOSE legislation to establish a 200-mile exclusive economic zone and stop EU boats fishing in our waters.”
Mr Hookem added: “I have said before that the French realise the value of fishing and that is why they are so keen to protect their right to fish British waters, yet both the Tories and Labour seem to think UK waters arte nothing more than bargaining chips in negotiations for other areas.”