The European Commission has told Britain that the conditions imposed on licences for French fishing vessels in Jersey territorial waters breach the terms of the EU/UK trade deal, a Brussels spokesperson has said.
The announcement came as France despatched two patrol boats to the island in the English Channel as tensions continued to rise in the dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights.
News agency Agence France-Presse reported the two police vessels had been sent after Britain deployed a pair of Royal Navy vessels to the scene, where a flotilla of French fishing vessels are attempting to blockade St Helier harbour.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Commission spokesperson Vivian Loonela said: “On 30 April, the Commission was notified by the UK authorities of granting 41 licences to the EU vessels fishing in Jersey territorial waters from 1 May.
“But there were additional conditions set to these licences. We have following the receiving of this, indicated to the UK that we see that the provisions of the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, that we recently agreed, have not been met there, have not being respected.”
Under the terms of the deal agreed by Boris Johnson on Christmas Eve, any new conditions limiting EU fishing activities in UK water must be based on a clear scientific rationale, be non-discriminatory between the UK and European boats and be notified in advance, said Ms Loonela.
“Based on that, we have indicated that until we have received further justifications from the UK authorities we consider that these new conditions should not apply,” she said.
“We are continuing our discussions with the UK, we are calling for calm in this situation, we are doing as foreseen in the agreement as well as keeping in mind the best interests of our fishing community. Full compliance with the TCA is essential in this process.”
Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie said that that Brussels was “engaging in good faith with the UK” over the situation.
Mr Ferrie declined to say whether it would be acceptable under the terms of the TCA for France to withhold energy supplies to Jersey in retaliation.
The deal requires both parties to a dispute to “engage constructively” over any disagreement, and this was the stage which the process has reached so far, he said.
If disagreements persist, the TCA allows for the complaining party to request the establishment of an arbitration tribunal.
In the case of either side failing to comply with the tribunal’s ruling, the other party has the right to suspend its other obligations under the treaty “in a proportionate way”, he said.
It is understood that this could include the introduction of tariffs on goods related to the dispute.
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