Emmanuel Macron loves to compare himself to Jupiter, a Roman sky god. Two trusted lieutenants are available to him when he directs thunder at the UK in the latest ‘Fishing War.

European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune is the president’s chief attack dog on all things Brexit, which he calls an ‘intellectual fraud’. He is pushing for a “zero tolerance” policy towards Britain, in the push to increase fishing licences. Yesterday he warned of retaliation because Boris Johnson doesn’t understand the language force.

The 40-year-old, fresh-faced Frenchman is a highly-flying product from the French establishment and one Mr Macron’s closest friends. Born into a middle-class Parisian family, he attended the Sorbonne and then the College of Europe, Bruges. This is where he earned a spot on France’s elite civil servant training program.

His calm, measured behavior belies his aggressive public persona and love for playground taunts. He made a particularly inflamatory intervention earlier this month, which saw him being called “Le Grinch” and accused Britain of being obsessed with France. He threatened to cut off supplies to Christmas turkeys if Downing Street didn’t agree to Mr Macron’s demands.

Annick Girardin is the second figure in the French camp. She is a daughter of fishermen and has been just as bellicose. In May, she threatened to cut off Jersey’s electricity supplies due to the dispute. She spoke with undisguised joy and this week said RTL radio: “It’s not a conflict, but it’s a fight.”

The radical firebrand boasts of having “pirate’s soul” and is hailed by the hard left for being a straight-talking, street fighter. In a past role, he was responsible for defending the French language against the growing global influence English. This is an obsessive obsession of the country’s political class.

European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune is Emmanuel Macron's chief attack dog on all things Brexit, which he calls an 'intellectual fraud'

European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune is Emmanuel Macron’s chief attack dog on all things Brexit, which he calls an ‘intellectual fraud’

Maritime Minister Annick Girardin, herself a fishermen's daughter, is the second key figure in the French camp. She is seen at a meeting in Cambodia in 2015 while Secretary of State for Development and Francophonie

Annick Girardin is the second key figure in French camp. As Secretary of State for Development and Francophonie, she is seen at a meeting held in Cambodia in 2015.

Clément Beaune is seen as being extremely close to President Macron, a head of state used to speaking through his lieutenants.

They have been political allies for many years. Mr Beaune was his advisor on Europe for two year’s during his time as a minister in Francois-Hollande’s government.

Mr. Macron created En Marche, his own party. This party won a surprise win in the presidential election. Mr. Beaune was quickly reintroduced to the fold to help with EU issues. 

He is believed to be a key figure in pushing President Trump to maintain a ‘bad cop” stance on Britain during the Brexit negotiations.

Boris Johnson, who took over the role of Europe minister in the summer 2020, has been so obsessed with his tweet trolling of the UK that he once asked Mr Macron to put a halt to it, according to reports from France, cited by The Telegraph.

Fluent English speaker, who boasted earlier this month that his government had ‘pressure point’ it would continue to press for leverage in the fishing row, claimed that he was fluent in English.

In an extraordinary outburst he said: “Stop telling me you don’t have us anymore, stop being obsessive with us, and stop believing that they will solve all your problems.

“They made a mess” of Brexit. It was their choice and their fault, not ours. We can see that it was a bad choice today.

“It’s not by threatening our fishermen every day, badmouthing them, making red tape or creating problems for Europeans, the French and our fishermen that you will solve turkey shortages during Christmas.

“We will stand firm. Britain needs us to sell its products, including fishing, they require us for their financial services and they need our help for their research centres. All of these things put us under pressure.

Ms Girardin shakes hands during the meeting in Phnom Penh, 2015 with Hor Namhong, Cambodia’s foreign minister.

Ms Girardin and Mr Beaune talk as they leave the weekly cabinet meeting at The Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris on October 13

Ms Girardin and Mr Beaune talk as they leave the weekly cabinet meeting at The Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris on October 13

In September, he used British forecourts’ petrol scarcity as an excuse to provoke another, suggesting that the crisis proved that Brexit was an “intellectual fraud”.

Recently, Mr. Beaune, who is gay, played a leading part in attacking the increasingly intolerant Polish government’s decision to create ‘LGBT-free’ zones throughout the country.

Annick Girardin is a long-term ally for Mr Macron and one the most vocal advocates of his anti Brexit message.

She describes herself as a “pirate soul”, and her seafaring background made it the perfect candidate to become a “Minister of the Ocean” – an office he revived to resolve post-Brexit fishery disputes.

According to Paris Match, Ms Girardin is well-known for her thick skin, despite all the trials she has faced in her life. She was forced to leave Reunion, a French Indian Ocean island, in order to avoid being lynched in Yellow Vest protests.

The politician was born in Saint-Malo in Brittany. His weather was built on state-sponsored piratery against English ships in 17th and 18th centuries.

Her childhood was spent on the sparsely-isolated archipelago of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, which is heavily dependent on fishing due to its isolated location in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.

Her father started his career as a fisherman, before opening a bakery shop. David, her younger brother, now runs it.

The 56-year-old, (seen in 2020 on a visit to Lorient in western France) was once dubbed 'the Pirate of Hope' in a TV documentary

The 56-year-old was seen in 2020 during a visit to Lorient, western France. In a TV documentary, he was once called “The Pirate of Hope”.

Ms Girardin grew up on Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, an isolated, weather-beaten French overseas territory off Newfoundland

Ms Girardin grew up on Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, an isolated, weather-beaten French overseas territory off Newfoundland

In 2015, she spoke to the Sunday Journal about having “two mothers” as a child. She referred to her grandmother and mother as her mothers. Her grandfather was a chief of public work.

Anne-Claire was 15 and a 1/2 years old when she gave birth to her daughter. She had to balance school and childcare.

She said, “In my final year, before I went to class, i dropped off my daughter at the nursery.”

Anne-Claire became a weather presenter, cookery show host and now has two children, Milo and Eliott. Ms Girardin is proud to be a grandmother.

The minister’s partner is Jean-François Vigneau, a businessman on Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon who in 2019 attracted scrutiny for winning three public contracts worth £2.1million without competition.

Ms Girardin was the great-niece of Henri Claireaux. A French senator, she joined the Radical Left Party (in 1999) and established herself as a leading political figure on the Island with her left-wing attacks upon the local council.

She was elected to the National Assembly in 2007 and served this position until 2014. She was then appointed Secretary of State, Development and Francophonie.

This role required me to defend the French language against English’s growing power.

Ms Girardin is now Maritime Minister, and is pictured with President Emmanuel Macron on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte in 2019

Ms Girardin is now Maritime Minister, and is pictured with President Emmanuel Macron on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte in 2019 

She was elected Minister of Overseas France in May 2017 following the election of President Emmanuel Macron. In 2020, President Macron named her ‘Minister for the Sea’ to reflect the need to ensure that Left-wing figures are represented in his administration.

She has repeatedly lashed out against the negative impact of Brexit on French fishermen, and the Jersey fishing dispute.

After Jersey introduced new requirements under the UK-EU trade agreement for boats to provide evidence of past fishing activities in order to be granted a license to continue operating in Jersey waters, the row began.

Ms Girardin made a tub-thumbing speech Tuesday to the National Assembly. She said she was ‘disgusted’ to learn that Jersey had issued 41 licensures with unilaterally imposed terms, including the restriction that French fishing vessels could spend time in Jersey’s waters.

She stated that there were retaliatory actions in the (Brexit] deal. We’re willing to use them.

“Regarding Jersey: I remind you about the delivery of electricity along underground cables… It would be a shame if we had the to, but we will do it if necessary.

Ms Girardin has a lot of popularity in left-wing circles. In March 2016, Sylvie Koffi, Shaman Dolpi dedicated 52 minutes to her documentary film The Pirate of Hope. 

Q&A explainer: What is behind the Franco-British fishing row?

France and Britain are at odds over fishing rights in Channel. A row over the politically sensitive sector has caused a major diplomatic flare-up. 

What caused the dispute?

Brexit is a simple word.

Britain’s departure of the European Union, which took effect on January 1, broke up agreements to manage fish stocks in waters around the UK.

Prior to Brexit, EU member countries including Britain had treaties as well as a joint fisheries strategy that allocated quotas from different stocks to each country’s fishing fleet.

These agreements allowed hundreds, mostly French, EU vessels to have access to Britain’s fish-rich waters between six miles and twelve miles from its coast.

What has changed?

The most difficult issue to resolve in the tense Brexit negotiations was fishing. Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, promised to regain ‘full command’ over British waters.

In the end, both sides came to an agreement that EU boats would gradually give up 25 percent of their current fishing quotas over a five and a half-year transition period.

After that, there’ll be annual negotiations about how much fish EU vessels can take out of British waters.

The agreement required that EU fishermen who wanted to access British waters had to apply to for new licenses.

The licences were granted for more distant waters, considered Britain’s exclusive economic area (12-200 nautical mile from the coast) and its closer territorial waters (6-12 miles from it).

Between 2012 and 2016, fishermen had to show a record of work there.

And the Channel Islands.

They are an important, but separate part of the whole picture.

Jersey is the largest Channel Islands. They are self-governing.

They are not British but recognise Queen Elizabeth as their head. They also rely on Britain to provide defense and foreign relations.

Brexit also saw the end of the Granville Bay fishing agreement between France and Jersey. This had established rules and quotas to fish in the waters around the island.

French fishermen would need to apply for new licenses under the new rules. If they could prove that they have worked in Jersey waters previously, they would be granted new licences.

Is it the licencing dispute?


Nearly all EU boats requesting access to Britain’s exclusive economic zone have been granted permission by Britain.

The territorial waters licences are the source of tension.

According to French figures, London issued 100 licences to French vessels for these waters, while 75 are still pending.

French figures show that Jersey has issued 111 permanent licenses and 31 provisional licenses, while 75 boats were rejected.

Rejected French fishermen claim they are being unfairly limited by bureaucracy and red tape.

They claim that small boats do not have the GPS equipment necessary to prove their previous work, while others complain about difficulty in obtaining licenses for new vessels that have replaced older models.

Are there protests?

Yes. Yes.

Wednesday saw the French government announce that it would increase customs and sanitary control on trade with Britain, and ban British seafood from French ports.

These measures will be in effect from Tuesday, April 22nd.

France has also suggested the possibility of reducing electricity exports from Jersey or blocking negotiations between London & the EU on sensitive topics, such as trade in financial service.

Some French officials have made it clear that Britain depends on Paris to stop illegal migrants and asylum seekers from crossing the Channel to England.

What’s next?

French officials claim that more licenses have been issued since they began publicly pressing Britain and Jersey over the past few months.

France is also trying get the rest of the European Union on its side.

Ten of the 26 EU member countries signed a statement condemning Britain’s “incomplete and inappropriate” response to fishing.

Experts don’t see any improvement in British-French ties.

France’s elections are set for April and President Emmanuel Macron wants to keep the politically powerful and vocal fishermen on his side.

Reporting by AFP news agency.