Nothing says ‘easiest trade deal in history’ quite like gunboats deployed to Jersey

Yes, this Brexit stuff is all going very well indeed

Mark Steel@mrmarksteel
Thursday 06 May 2021 17:26
Boats collide off coast of Jersey amid Brexit fishing row

How dare the French assault poor little Jersey, whose only industries are fish, potatoes and international tax fiddling?

So send the gunboats, however many we need, because people are ANGRY about whelks. We can only hope they stay just as committed when this is resolved, and spend every day calling phone-ins to yell: “I WANT TO TALK ABOUT SCALLOPS! THEY NEED TO BE ROUNDER, AND MORE SQUISHY.”

When you see those adverts in which a young man from Blyth is “Made by the Marines”, this is the sort of thing they’re talking about. Once they’re signed up, their life can begin as they do something exceptional, vital and historic, and sit outside Jersey in case a trawler from Normandy catches a herring.

This is all because of an argument about who can catch which fish, following Brexit. That makes sense, as we were promised Brexit was going to be the easiest trade deal in the world. And that’s worked out perfectly. Because sending gunboats to Jersey is always a sign of a deal having gone through easily. When the plumber fixes your radiators, you don’t want one of those complicated deals where he does the job and you pay him. It’s much easier if you have to send a gunboat to his house because the French have threatened to dynamite his garden shed.

The French government has threatened to turn off Jersey’s electricity, as if all Jersey’s power comes from an extension cable that reaches to Cherbourg. So The Telegraph reported that “a government source said, ‘even the German occupation left the lights on’.” 

Congratulations. It was only ever going to be 30 seconds into this conflict until the war was mentioned, and this government source nipped in first. Because that’s the rule in Britain – any problem with anything European has to refer to the war. If the World Vegetable Society announced French beetroots are the juiciest in the world, 120 backbench MPs would be on daytime television saying: “This is an insult to all those who fought on D-Day. We stood alone in 1940 and that’s why we’re firing one French beetroot an hour out of a canon off the cliffs of Dover.”

By the weekend, dozens of people aged 70 will have been interviewed on the news, saying: “My generation was bravely born five years after the war ended, and despite this courage, we still have to sit by while French people are allowed to fish. Is it any wonder we don’t like Pakistanis?”

Another “government source” said: “I’m disappointed the EU has resorted to threats, rather than use the treaty to discuss the matter.” Yes, that is disappointing. Why would anyone, in a discussion between Britain and the EU, want to issue threats rather than discuss things nicely?

The French should learn to discuss matters with us calmly, the way we always did, and publish headlines in newspapers such as: “MY GRANDDAD FOUGHT AT AGINCOURT AGAINST THESE ARSEHOLES SO LET’S MAKE THEM SIT IN THE DARK.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg even declared that fish were happier for being British, which I’m sure they are, but hopefully it’s even better than that and soon he’ll announce they all went to Eton, not some scuzzy public school like Westminster. And he’ll report that a regiment of mackerel issued a statement that, “By God, we shall do our duty to the Queen and drift without fear or lassitude into British nets, carpe diem.”

The argument appears to be that French fishing boats haven’t been given the licences they were promised to fish around Jersey. And those that have been given a licence have also been given huge documents packed with restrictions. But since Brexit, each lorry load of British fish must also go through seven stages of extra bureaucracy, before heading to Europe. And each lorry must be accompanied with seven extra pages of forms.

So all those years, when the anti-EU campaigners were moaning about the red tape our businesses had to deal with, what they must have meant is there wasn’t enough of it. They must have been thinking: “Why are fishermen allowed to catch fish without filling in thousands of extra forms? We demand a separate form for every single cockle.”

Since Brexit, lorries of British fish have had to go rotten while waiting for the extra forms to be completed, because the British government protects our British forms, that have kept this country going for thousands of years.

What we could have done, to protect our fishing industry, is use the amount wasted on a useless test and trace system and spread it among the fishermen. It was around £30bn that got lost, so for that money they could have nets made of silk, hand-woven by mountain people of the Andes, and placed in ice in which each cube has been personally blessed by the Dalai Lama. They could have each mackerel moulded into the shape of a historical figure, such as Abraham Lincoln or Jennifer Lopez, by a specialist fish sculptor.

But that’s not as much fun as sending gunboats, especially as Emanuel Macron and the French government are capable of being knobs as well, so this could escalate gloriously. One war between Britain and France lasted 100 years and no one can remember how that started, so this one could last longer than that if we play it right.

This is where we are in the world now. When superpowers went to the brink of annihilation in 1962, it was around the matter of whether a Soviet ally should place nuclear weapons in Cuba, a few miles from Florida. When Britain and France go to war, it’s because of a row about who gets the scallops.

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