PARIS/LONDON – French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drain warned that unresolved economic disputes between France and the post-Brexit United Kingdom could see an overall deterioration in trade relations, and doubted that a deal between the nations could be inked this fiscal year.
“I think that on trade issues and the mechanism for future relations, which we are going to start on, we are going to rip each other apart. But that is part of negotiations, everyone will defend their own interests,” Le Drain said, on the sidelines of Munich Security Conference, cited by The Sun.
The warning from the second-largest economy in the EU comes amid reported friction over EU market access regulations for the post-Brexit UK, the media report emphasized. European retailers have reportedly threatened British consumers with a deficit of certain goods if a trade deal is not reached by the end of 2020. Some 80 percent of all food imported to the UK comes from the EU, The Sun noted.
According to the French Chambers of Agriculture, the UK is the third-largest market for French agricultural products, after Belgium and Germany. The situation reportedly becomes complicated, as France and the UK have a long-lasting unresolved dispute over access to fishing waters in maritime areas.
The French side, with a fishing season limited to about eight months, regularly accuses the Britons – who are allowed to carry out fishing activities throughout the year – of overfishing. One of the main thorny issues is the scallop harvest. In France, scallops can only be harvested between October 1 and May 15. UK fishermen are not subject to any seasonal regulations.
According to The Sun, Britain will keep rigid fishing rules in its waters – a promise that reportedly has angered French fishermen in places like Brittany, a home region to the French foreign minister. The UK officially left the European Union on January 31, after years of negotiating for a deal with Brussels that would get the approval of the British Parliament.
Brexit was postponed on several occasions, with incumbent Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially planning it for October 31. Until the end of the year, the UK will be subject to EU rules and regulations as part of a transition period that gives both sides 11 months to strike agreements on a wide range of areas of cooperation, including trade.