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I won't let down French fishermen in Brexit talks, says Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for the a special European council on budget in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2020. Julien Warnand/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that he will not let down French fishermen in post-Brexit trade negotiations and that France will seek compensation if it doesn’t get the same access to British waters as before.

British fishing grounds are among the richest in the North East Atlantic zone where most of the EU catch is hauled in.

Future fishing rights in UK waters are likely to be a flashpoint in negotiations between Brussels and London on a post-Brexit relationship.

“I want to tell our fishermen that I will fight for them. If we do not get the same access as today, we will seek compensation,” Macron told several regional French newspapers.

“I will not let our fishermen be impacted by a British vote they could do nothing about.”

Current rules allow EU boats to fish as close as six nautical miles to Britain’s coast, but with Britain’s exit from the EU, its exclusive economic zone will reach as far as 200 miles offshore, raising questions over the narrow channel between Britain and Europe.

Regaining control of Britain’s waters was a headline issue for Brexit campaigners. British fishermen say too many concessions were made when Britain joined the European Economic Community in 1973.

European Union leaders began talks on Thursday on a joint 2021-27 budget that will need to fill a 75 billion euro (62.8 billion pounds) hole left by Britain’s departure just as they face costly climate and other challenges.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; editing by Nick Macfie

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