UK blasts ‘unacceptable’ threats by France to cut Jersey’s electricity supply in fishing dispute

Jersey says French fisherman do not understand new Brexit fishing rules

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Thursday 06 May 2021 08:26
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<p>France’s maritime affairs minister  said she was ‘revolted’ by the UK’s approach over its waters</p>

France’s maritime affairs minister said she was ‘revolted’ by the UK’s approach over its waters

The British government has accused France of "disproportionate" and “unacceptable” threats against Jersey, as the Channel Island's government said French fisherman did not understand new Brexit rules.

French ministers on Tuesday floated the possibility of cutting off the island's electricity supply if their fishing fleets were not given relief from new bureaucracy.

Fishermen from the country are also reportedly considering plans to blockade Jersey in protest at the new regulations, which they say threatens their livelihoods. The French region of Normandy has also closed an office on the island.

"To threaten Jersey like this is clearly unacceptable and disproportionate," a UK government spokesman told reporters in London.

"We are working closely with the EU and Jersey on fisheries access provisions following the end of the transition period so trust the French will use the mechanisms of our new treaty to solve problems."

The fishermen are annoyed that they are being asked to produce copious documentary evidence at having fished in certain waters to get a licence to continue their activity under the new post-Brexit fishing regime.

They have already staged protests at French posts and stopped some British fish from landing – exacerbating problems British exporters are already facing thanks to the UK’s departure from the EU.

In a statement the government of Jersey said the French reaction “results from a misunderstanding” and that Jersey had “acted on legal advice, in good faith, and with due regard to non-discriminatory and scientific principles at every stage of these proceedings”.

As a crown dependency Jersey’s foreign affairs are ultimately the responsibility of the UK, though day-to-day relations are conducted by its own government.

Jersey’s foreign affairs minister Ian Gorst said the island wanted “to heal the relationship as soon as possible”.

“We are entering a new era and it takes time for all to adjust. Jersey has consistently shown its commitment to finding a smooth transition to the new regime, most evidently by creating an interim arrangement to allow French fishermen time to submit their data.

“That commitment remains. If French fishermen or the authorities have further evidence they would like to submit, we will update the licences to reflect that evidence.

"There is no time limit on submitting evidence, and we would like to offer French fishers the opportunity to submit data directly to Jersey, in case they feel information is not travelling quickly enough through the Normandy/France/EU/UK/Jersey route.”

Responding to questions in the national assembly on Tuesday, France’s maritime affairs minister Annick Girardin said she was “revolted” by the UK government’s approach and that France was ready to retaliate.

Asked about the question of “retaliatory measures”, the minister noted that the British crown dependency of Jersey relied on “the transmission of electricity by underwater cable”.

“I would regret it if we were to get there, we will do so if we have to,” she said.

The Jersey Evening Post newspaper says that the possibility of stopping all commercial vessels accessing French ports was discussed at French protests, in addition to disrupting the island’s electricity supply.

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