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French flotilla stages protest off island in fishing row with UK

French trawler crews angry at post-Brexit restrictions on their access to British fishing grounds sailed on Thursday in a flotilla to the British Channel island of Jersey to register their protest.

A simmering row over fishing rights has escalated this week, with a French minister suggesting French electricity supplies to Jersey could be cut, and Britain dispatching two navy patrol boats to the island. 

Hugo Lehuby, a representative for the Normandy regional fishing committee which helped organize Thursday's protest, said the French flotilla would not seek to impede access to Jersey ports, or stop local fishing vessels from operating.

"The objective is to express our unhappiness about the restrictive measures that were imposed," Lehuby told Reuters by telephone, adding that he expected the flotilla to return to their home ports by the end of Thursday.

"This is not a blockade," he said. "It's not our objective to smash stuff up."

Ship-tracking website showed around 25 French-registered vessels off the Jersey port of St Helier on Thursday morning. 

The same website showed that one of the two British naval vessels dispatched to the island, HMS Tamar, was positioned approximately 6 km (4 miles) to the southwest of the flotilla.

The second vessel, HMS Severn, was around 9 km to the west. Neither of the vessels appeared to be moving towards the French flotilla.

A spokeswoman for the Jersey government said officials were monitoring the situation, but had no immediate comment.

The island of Jersey sits 14 miles (23 km) off the northern French coast and 85 miles (140 km) south of Britain's shores. 

Jersey's government said the island had issued new fishing permits in accordance with the post-Brexit trade terms, which included new conditions for license-holders.

That angered French trawler crews and the French government, who said the new terms had been imposed unilaterally and without discussion, and that they placed unfair restrictions on French fishing vessels. 

(Source: Reuters) 

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