Macron humiliated as Belgium refuses to back him in fishing war – ‘Not our fight!’

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The French President’s calls to instigate sanctions were reportedly shot down by Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo and his foreign minister Sophie Wilmes. One insider said bluntly: “This is not our fight.”

It comes after Clement Beaune, the French Europe minister, was sent to Brussels earlier this week to meet with Maros Sefcovic, vice president of the European Commission.

Earlier on Wednesday, the EU gave the UK a deadline of December 10 to resolve the dispute.

He said the two “discussed the application of the [UK-EU] agreement, in particular the issue of the licenses of fish.”

In addition, he stated: “European unity, full respect for our agreements, relentless defence of our fishermen.”

But according to the Mail, Mr Beaune and the French prime minister Jean Castex were shut down by counterparts in Belgium.

Sources told the newspaper that the Belgian prime minister and Ms Wilmes had shut down Mr Macron’s pleas for sanctions against the UK.

Officials supposedly said that the French were told the matter was bi-lateral, and that Belgium would be staying clear of the issue.

A source told the Mail: “There is little appetite for a trade war over this.

“This is not our fight. We still want to resolve the outstanding issues through dialogue with the UK.”

The revelations come amid EU-mediated talks over what France perceives as a lack of access to UK waters following Brexit.

France has repeatedly complained that the UK and Jersey were not granting as many licenses as French fishermen were applying for.

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France had previously said it could stop UK boats landing in its ports, but backed down and returned to the negotiating table after the UK Government threatened to start “rigorous” checks.

Speaking to the French senate today, Clement Beaune, France’s Europe minister said it would continue dialogue for a few days before measures would be taken.

He said: “If dialogue doesn’t bear fruit with the United Kingdom, we will defend our interests.

“Our objective remains the same: to ensure the agreement we signed is respected, to defend our fishers.”

The ongoing row with the UK is being seen by many in Europe as an attempt by Mr Macron’s administration to garner domestic support and fend off political opponents in the run up to next April’s presidential election.

The ongoing row with the UK is being seen by many in Europe as an attempt by Mr Macron’s administration to garner domestic support and fend off political opponents in the run up to next April’s presidential election.

One senior EU diplomat said: “It is quite clear that France is trying to use this dispute for domestic political purposes.”

Another EU source told the Mail most governments within the economic bloc wanted to avoid being dragged into the spat.

However, French politicians have sought desperately to make the issue a Europe-wide one.

In a recently-leaked letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Mr Castex told the EU to use “levers at its disposal” to “make clear that compliance with the commitments entered into is non-negotiable and that leaving the Union is more damaging than remaining in it”.

The letter added: “The uncooperative attitude of the United Kingdom today risks not only causing great harm to fishermen, mainly French, but also for the [European] union, in that it sets a precedent for the future and challenges our credibility and our ability to assert our rights with regard to international commitments signed by the union.”

He urged Ms von der Leyen to consider “customs duties on certain fishery products” as punishment.

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