PARIS

French President Emmanuel Macron issued a statement Friday at the EU Council Summit in Brussels on the matter of fishing rights in the English Channel and northern waters between France and England.

“Under no circumstance will our fisherman be the ones sacrificed for this Brexit. We did not choose Brexit; it’s the choice of the British people,” he said to Radio France International upon his arrival at a summit held Thursday and Friday in the Belgian capital.

Although Friday’s agenda will focus on events in Africa, discussions the prior day had focused on relations with the UK, with the fishing issue being one of great importance.

The UK is set to make a hard exit from the single market as of Dec. 31. Macron said as well that France is already making preparations for the deadline.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will decide at the summit’s conclusion whether the UK will continue discussions on his self-imposed deadline. Fishing rights is one of the three main issues to be hammered out between the UK and the EU. Top of the list is cross-channel business, with Britain insisting on doling out state aid to UK businesses if it deems it necessary.

Governance and regulating future deals and agreements is another hot-button topic.

France’s head of state understands how important maintaining access to the northern waters is and how key a sector to the French economy.

France is nicknamed “the hexagon”, with three of its six borders possessing coastline. The country is rife with hundreds of rivers that flow into and out of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean. According to the latest economic data from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, France gathers 185,150 tons of fish each year and exports just over €1.5 million ($1.8 million) of fish and fishery products.

Britain’s desire is to come back to the negotiating table on an annual basis but to limit access to the Channel and surrounding waters in the interim. Various northern European countries on the other hand would like continued open access to the waters for fishing.

At the conclusion of Thursday’s talks on EU-UK relations, leaders issued a statement on the EU Council’s website that “called on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible.”

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