UK sends Navy ships to Jersey as fishing with France intensifies
Boris Johnson has ordered Royal Navy ships to patrol the waters off Jersey in a growing dispute between the UK and France over fishing rights.
France has threatened to cut power to the Channel Island over the dispute, which is over demand that ships be fitted with monitoring devices and meet other criteria to obtain licenses.
The disagreement comes amid more general complaints from French fishermen over difficulties obtaining the licenses needed to fish in British coastal waters, an issue addressed by the EU-UK trade deal reached last year.
Downing Street said on Wednesday evening that Johnson had spoken with the Jersey chief minister and foreign relations minister about the threat of a blockade of the port of St Helier by French fishermen.
“The Prime Minister underlined his unwavering support for Jersey. He said any blockade would be totally unjustified, ”said a spokesperson. “As a precaution, the UK will send two offshore patrol boats to monitor the situation.”
The craft will be HMS Tamar and HMS Severn River class.
Normandy region fisheries chief Dimitri Rogoff told AFP news agency that around 100 French fishing vessels would travel to Saint-Hélier on Thursday morning to protest the permits, but said they would not try to block the port and return to France in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, Brussels intervened in the dispute, calling on Britain to explain the conditions attached to access to waters around Jersey.
According to two people briefed on the matter, the European Commission has written to the UK government seeking clarification on the special conditions attached to fishing licenses off Jersey and asked that in the meantime they not be applied.
The letter, sent on Tuesday, says that under the “trade and cooperation agreement” concluded between Britain and the EU last year, the UK should have warned Brussels in advance to any additional conditions associated with obtaining licenses.
Brussels says in the letter that such requirements should be science-based and non-discriminatory. He also says the conditions should not be enforced until Britain has shown they are justified on those grounds, according to people briefed on the contents of the letter.
A spokesperson for the committee said that Brussels “has made it clear to the UK that the provisions of the EU-UK ACT have not been complied with”.
“Until UK authorities provide further justification for the new conditions, these new conditions should not apply,” the spokesperson said. “The commission remains in close contact with France and the United Kingdom on this subject.”
Brussels has the option of opening formal dispute settlement procedures with the UK under the two parties’ trade deal if the EU decides Britain is violating the spirit of the deal, which preserved certain EU fishing rights in waters near the Channel Islands. .
Jersey, the largest member of the archipelago and a dependency of the British crown, receives 95% of its electricity from France through submarine cables. Its foreign policy is governed by the UK, which means it is treated as a third country by the EU.
Annick Girardin, the French Minister of the Navy, told the French National Assembly on Tuesday that she was “outraged” that Jersey had granted 41 fishing licenses which included specific conditions and criteria “decided unilaterally and without explanation”.
“This is unacceptable,” she told lawmakers. “We are prepared to resort to retaliatory measures. . . concerning Jersey, I remind you of the transmission of electricity via submarine cables. Girardin added that she “would regret” any action but “we will do it if necessary”.
French fishermen and ministers have complained for two weeks about the difficulty of gaining access to British waters despite the fisheries agreement reached at the end of last year.
The anger of French fishermen over delays in obtaining UK fishing licenses has prompted trucks arriving in Europe with fish landed in the UK to be barricaded.
Clement Beaune, France’s little European affairs minister, threatened last week to block regulations that would allow British financial firms to do business in the EU if Britain fails to meet its Brexit fishing commitments .
Bertrand Sorre, deputy of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party La République en Marche, shared the example of a fisherman from Granville in Normandy. The man had previously fished for scallops and whelks for an average of 40 days a year off Jersey, but was told he could only fish 11 days this year, and only for scallops.
Ian Gorst, Jersey’s foreign affairs minister, said the island had issued the licenses in accordance with the UK’s trade and cooperation agreement with the EU and that the new regime “would take time for everything to happen. the world is adjusting ”.
“If the French fishermen or the authorities have other evidence that they would like to submit, we will update the licenses to reflect that evidence,” he added.
The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We are convinced that Jersey is responsible for its own territorial waters.”
Nadhim Zahawi, the British Minister for Business, urged the two sides to “settle” the fishing problems. “We need to look at this urgently and the best way to solve this problem is to work together,” he told Sky News.
A UK government spokesperson said: “Threatening Jersey like this is clearly unacceptable and disproportionate.”
“We are working closely with the EU and Jersey on the access to fishing arrangements after the end of the transition period, so trust [that] the French will use the mechanisms of our new treaty to solve the problems.
The dispute also comes at a time when UK and EU negotiators are discussing the 2021 catch quota for shared fishing stocks.