By Elizabeth Pineau
AULNOYE-AMERIES, France -French President Emmanuel Macron accused Britain on Friday of playing with his country’s nerves in a post-Brexit row over fishing rights and said France “will not yield”.
He renewed criticism of Britain in the dispute, which has harmed relations between the two countries, after France said it was still waiting for 150 more licences to be issued to French vessels to fish in British waters.
“We have not got what we wanted. They are playing with our nerves,” Macron told reporters during a visit to Aulnoye-Ameries in northern France. “We will not yield.”
Relations between traditional allies Paris and London have become increasingly strained since Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016.
At the heart of the row is fishing, a topic which dogged Brexit talks for years not because of its economic importance but because of its political significance for both leaders.
Paris says London should have issued more French boats with licences to fish in British territorial waters since Britain left the European Union. Britain says it is respecting the arrangements that were agreed.
The dispute centres on the issuance of licences to fish in territorial waters six to 12 nautical miles off Britain’s shores, and in the seas off the Channel Island of Jersey.
Maritime Minister Annick Girardin said earlier on Friday that France would “continue to fight every day to get what should be ours and so that those 150 licences arrive”.
Tension has flared repeatedly in the row. France briefly seized a British fishing boat in its waters in October, and both countries sent maritime vessels to waters off the Channel island of Jersey earlier this year.
Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the row briefly in Rome on Oct. 31 but there was little sign the dispute would be resolved.
Both leaders face domestic pressure to stand firm.
Macron made his remarks on Friday after conservative Xavier Bertrand, a potential opponent in a presidential election next year, urged him to do more to defend French fishermen’s interests.
Far-right politician Marine Le Pen, another likely presidential rival, wrote on Twitter: “Faced with the British, Emmanuel Macron has capitulated before even beginning the battle.”
Girardin also faces criticism. Rival politicians have said a suggestion she made on Thursday that the government might offer financial compensation to French fisherman who lose out showed France was ready to give up in the dispute.
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