Jersey standoff over post-Brexit fishing feud escalates between UK, France

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
French fishing vessels are seen outside the harbor at St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands.

Tensions between London and Paris over post-Brexit fishing rights have escalated off the island of Jersey, with the two sides sending navy and coastal patrol ships to the area as a “precaution” in ratcheting up of the row.

The posturing by the historic rivals was sparked by a protest of 100 French fishing vessels, which surrounded Jersey's main port on Thursday morning, allegedly threatening to block the way for the fishing boats in the harbor.

That prompted the UK government to send HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, two Royal Navy gunboats, to the area to “monitor the situation,” with France following suit with two of its own coast patrol vessels to face the British warships in the English Channel.

“We won’t be intimidated by these maneuvers,” said French European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron.

He accused Britain of breaching the Brexit trade deal and insisted Paris would not be intimidated into dropping its allegations.

Meanwhile, David Sellam, the head of the joint Normandy-Brittany sea authority, said that France is “ready for war. "We can bring Jersey to its knees if necessary.”

Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands in the English Channel which lies just off France's northern coast. Prior to Brexit, its rich fishing waters were open to French boats.

After the local government of Jersey obliged French fishermen to obtain a license for fishing off the isle’s coastline following the Brexit, the trawlermen are angry at being slapped with post-Brexit restrictions on their access to the Channel Island’s coastal waters.

The French fishermen view new licensing requirements announced by Jersey authorities as deliberately obstructing them and warn that they have refueled their boats and are “ready to re-stage the Battle of Trafalgar.”

Meanwhile, a French ship has allegedly collided with a British vessel in Jersey while French fishing vessels reportedly surrounded a British cargo boat, called the Commodore Goodwill, and set off flares as tensions spiraled over fishing rights.

PM Boris Johnson spoke to Jersey Chief Minister John Le Fondre, and the Minister of External Affairs Ian Gorst on Wednesday, underlining his “unwavering support” for the island and stressing “the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions," according to a governmental statement on Thursday.

French threat

As tensions simmered, French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin warned on Tuesday to take retaliatory measures against the UK by cutting electricity supplies to Jersey, a threat condemned by the British government as “unacceptable.”

Demands that vessels fishing off the Island be outfitted with tracking devices that enable UK authorities to track ships "where ships can and cannot go" are currently in dispute, said Girardin, adding that “if we accept this for Jersey, it would imperil our access everywhere.”

Giradin said Paris was prepared to retaliate, stressing, “I am sorry it has come to this, but we will do so if we have to.”

Alternative power supply

Britain has bitten back, saying it may seek alternative power supplies by laying under-sea cable to the Netherlands and boost supply with off-shore wind.

The UK government has identified the Netherlands as a more “reliable” contact and the two sides are already in talks over how a deal could proceed.

EU support for France

Meanwhile, EU officials have thrown their weight behind France’s threat to cut the Island’s power supply, of which, 95 percent is provided by the French government through a £40million undersea electricity cable.

An EU Commission spokeswoman said, “Any addition of new specific conditions to these fishing authorizations that limit EU fishing activities in UK waters must comply with the objectives and principles set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA)."

“The Commission has clearly indicated to the UK that the provisions of the EU-UK TCA have not been respected. Until the UK authorities provide further justifications on the new conditions, these new conditions should not apply," the spokesman added.

The Anglo-French dispute over fishing right comes on the heels of controversies over the sea rights in the Brexit deal.

Fishing rights between the UK and EU member states were a major sticking point during Brexit talks, with disagreements about total catches permitted and how they should be distributed.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku