BBC Brexit row: Newsnight host snaps at French MP after ‘over-the-top’ fishing demands

Brexit: BBC host quizzes guest on ‘over the top fishing pleas’

BBC Newsnight host Faisal Islam accused a leading French MP of sabotaging the Brexit talks with last-minute “over-the-top pleas”. Brexit negotiators Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier announced on Friday evening they would put a halt to discussions after a week of intense talks in London. In a joint statement, the pair stated “significant divergences” remained on key issues including fishing, governance and the so-called level playing field on competition.

It is understood the talks were thrown into chaos on Thursday when the French made a last-minute “ridiculous” fishing demand for 10 years of free access to British waters.

Speaking on BBC Newsnight, French National Assembly member Bruno Bonnell said: “Europe is protecting itself”.

He claimed “the English want to sit on the fence” and “cherry pick” deal details.

However, the BBC host confronted Mr Bonnell, who is a strong ally of Emmanuel Macron, on the French fishing demands.

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Mr Islam snapped and said: “We have heard these arguments before. With respect, what has changed this week?

“Is it the intervention, as we hear, of your government on this issue of fish, making over-the-top last-minute pleas for fishing to be ongoing for years to come in our waters?”

Mr Bonnell responded: “I don’t think our government is tougher than any other government. I think that Europe is basically protecting itself.

“It is important to respect our rules in Europe, with the size of this continent.”

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He added: “Exiting Europe has to have a price”.

Mr Islam earlier hit back at the French MP’s claim the UK’s demands were unclear.

The BBC host said: “They want a Canada-style trade deal. The trade deal is clear, isn’t it?

“Why are you demanding that things stay close in order to protect your industries?”

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On Friday, France President Emmanuel Macron threatened to block any deal with Britain that sees France lose out on fishing rights.

Sources from both camps have raised fears the negotiations will end with a no-deal Brexit, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls for a “compromise” between the UK and EU.

The Daily Telegraph reported Britain had compromised on fishing on Thursday and were set to allow the EU to keep nearly 50 percent of current fishing quotas from next year, before moving to annually established quotas.

However, the EU came back, following a French intervention, and countered by insisting “total access” to British waters for 10 years.

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