FILE - Workers unload fish at the port of Roscoff, western France, Nov. 12, 2020.
FILE - Workers unload fish at the port of Roscoff, western France, Nov. 12, 2020.

PARIS - Difficult talks continue between Britain and the European Union as both sides try to come up with a deal to govern their relationship after Brexit. Those efforts do not appear to be succeeding and in France, owners of many small businesses are worried about what that will mean for them.

The clock is ticking for negotiators and the prospect of no deal worries many small business owners in France.  Brexit and its impact on activity is the number one topic for those doing business on both sides of the English Channel.

The date of Jan. 1, 2021 – the end of the transition period - has been known for years but many were hoping for a smooth switch. Three weeks ahead of the deadline, many are still unprepared with no contingency plan.

That is the concern for many wine makers in central France. Karina Makhlouf works for the Cher Chamber of Commerce and advises companies on how to get ready to deal with Britain’s departure from the European Union.  

Makhlouf explains that she has had many calls lately from small business owners worried about the coming Brexit. She receives many inquiries about customs procedures regarding Jan. 1 when the United Kingdom would become autonomous from the European Union with its own tariffs and cross-border commerce regulations, if no trade deal is reached.

In a statement, small business owners noted huge gaps still exist on three big issues: ensuring fair cross-Channel competition after Brexit, arbitration of a future deal, and fisheries.

The hot topic of these negotiations: fisheries.   

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease …
Boris Johnson to Head to Brussels for Crucial Brexit Talks
Gaps remain on fishing rights, fair-competition rules and the governance of future disputes

France will oppose any pact that "sacrifices" its fishermen according to the French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune.

The minister said Tuesday that France would veto any agreement it considered a bad deal.

France has always taken a strong stance on the issue to defend its fishermen in its northern coastal areas of Calais, Boulogne, and Dunkerque.

One of them is Stephane Pinto who told VOA he is worried about the implications a Brexit no-deal for fishermen from northern France. He says that fishing in Britain’s waters represents up to 75% of their activities and without this opportunity many fishermen would be out of jobs. A solution must be found, Pinto said.

The 27 EU leaders are due to meet in person at a summit on Thursday. The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is also due to travel to Brussels this week.