The issue around fishing rights is the latest manifestation of French unwillingness to accept the result of the Brexit referendum, writes John Baron, something which needs to change, with such bitterness towards the UK beneficial for no-one.

The vote to leave the European Union stemmed from a British desire to take back control of key aspects of our everyday life from a remote and undemocratic bureaucracy and to step away from further EU impulses towards political integration. It was not an attempt to deny our history or geography, and it was not a vote to bring about the collapse of the EU. Britain and Europe will always be closely bound to each other, and therefore it is in everyone's interests for both Britain and the EU to succeed.

Sadly the Commission and many EU national leaders did not take our historic Brexit vote in the right spirit. Instead of working cooperatively with Britain as we set about recasting our relationship with the EU and stepping out into the wider world, the EU decided to teach Britain – and any other country contemplating a similar move – a lesson. The broad intention was to bring us into line and, ideally, reverse the decision to leave the EU.

When it became clearer that simply reversing the Brexit decision was not possible, despite the best efforts of the loud and vocal minority in the UK who advocated for a second referendum, tactics changed to keeping the UK so close to the EU that it would be as if we had never left at all – though now shorn of any influence or voting rights.

This was the upshot of the Northern Ireland 'backstop', which could have kept the entire UK subject to EU regulations for as long as the EU wanted to keep us there. As one of the 'Spartans' who voted three times against Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement, I am glad that we kept our nerve and saw off this potentially disastrous situation. Given the current state of UK-EU relations, our concerns were surely prescient.

Despite the success of the Conservatives at the 2019 General Election, the EU kept on coming back to this 'solution'. Indeed, one of the main sticking points during the trade negotiations was the EU's insistence that Britain accept 'dynamic alignment' with EU regulations and standards. This would have involved the UK being legally obliged to change our domestic regulations in lockstep with changing EU regulations, robbing the Westminster Parliament of its sovereignty in this regard. This was as absurd as demanding that the EU agree to similar conditions as UK regulations changed at Westminster.

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Even now, a form of dynamic alignment is still touted by the EU as a 'solution' to the ongoing problems over the Northern Ireland Protocol, though it should be noted that the EU's latest suggestions do go some way in acknowledging that the Protocol is not working in the way that the UK has patiently been pointing out for over a year. This is a sign that most EU countries are quietly making their peace with Brexit, and we await to see how these negotiations over the Protocol unfold.

However, one country has pointedly not come to terms with Brexit. The French have emerged as the most trenchant and vocal opponents of the new reality, treating the UK as an adversary rather than a close partner and ally. It is quite extraordinary that the French Prime Minister recently wrote to the President of the EU Commission to demand that the EU must make clear that "leaving the union is more damaging than remaining in it". The French Europe Minister also stated that the only language the British understand "is the language of force".

President Macron also takes a very hard line on the Northern Ireland Protocol, arguing that both the letter and the spirit of the agreement must be fully implemented. However, he rejects just this approach when the British and Jersey Governments apply the same standard to the fisheries agreements. French boats can continue to fish in UK and Jersey waters, but only if they can prove they have fished there historically. Accordingly, 98 per cent of licence applications from French boats have been granted. France's puzzling response to this is to threaten to cut off trading and energy links between the EU, UK and Jersey. Imagine the reaction from ardent remainers if the UK had threatened to do this to France.

It is also impossible to forget President Macron's extraordinary comments about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which he denounced as "quasi-ineffective". This was a claim without any foundation, and it is difficult to imagine any reason why he would say such a thing, other than to rubbish a world-leading British vaccine and, by extension, the highly successful British vaccination programme at a time when the French and EU programmes were lagging behind.

French histrionics over the announcement of the AUKUS defence agreement between the US, UK and Australia are a further sign of a country ill at ease with itself and its place in the world, and with an unhealthy fixation with Britain. No doubt there was genuine shock at the loss of a massive defence contract, but it is hard to believe that the French would not have grabbed such a plum from the UK if the roles had been reversed. As William Hague has since put it, 'all is fair in love and submarines'.

It is certainly relevant that there is a French presidential election in the offing, and British and French leaders rarely suffer a political disadvantage from sticking it to the other country across the water. However, this fractious relationship benefits no-one, and is an unwelcome and unnecessary distraction as the Western democracies attempt to confront the rising forces of authoritarianism. If the wider EU can come to terms with Brexit, it is time for other EU leaders – perhaps a parting shot from a departing Angela Merkel – to take the French to one side and quietly whisper some advice.

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