Brexit fishing showdown: Frost orders France to back off in crisis talks on Jersey row

French fisherman warns of 'never-ending war' with Jersey waters

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A flotilla of French boats sailed over and threatened to blockade the British Crown Dependencies picturesque main port of Saint Helier on Thursday. The standoff briefly escalated, with the UK sending over two Royal Navy vessels.

 

French ministers including French President Emmanuel Macron also made direct threats to the UK and Jersey.

One threat made by French Minister of the Sea Annick Gardin included cutting off Jersey’s electricity supply while Mr Macron said “maximum pressure” should be applied to be UK in relation to implementing the Trade and Cooperation Argeement with the EU.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who works closely with the former UK chief Brexit negotiator, said UK officials and ministers are currently trying to resolve the matter with France.

In a briefing with Holyrood journalists today, Mr Gove added: “I know George Eustice and Lord Frost have been having conversations with French and EU counterparts to deescalate the situation.”

The talks held with French Government and EU Commission officials, the Express understands, were aimed to find a “practical” and “peaceful” solution to the diplomatic row.

Whitehall sources told Express.co.uk the situation on post-Brexit fishing rights with France were “tense” stressing their approach to the UK had been “hostile”.

One source added to this publication: “France just wants to make direct threats with us, talks with them are not constructive.

“If they continue this approach, we will respectfully tell them to back off as we want a calm diplomatic solution to this issue.”

The French fishermen protest on Thursday was over an abrupt change in rules on licences to fish in Jersey’s waters.

Until the post-Brexit deal, the rules for French boats had been fixed under an agreement called the Granville Bay Treaty signed in 2000 between Jersey and France.

The post-Brexit agreement signed in late December by London and Brussels allows French fishermen to ply a zone of the British offshore waters, which are rich in fish and less stormy, as long as they could prove they had done this in the recent past.

This zone includes waters off the Channel Islands, which belong to the Crown but are self-governing and not part of the United Kingdom and therefore did not even vote in the Brexit referendum.

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Following the row, Island fishermen today warned they could go out of business because of the sheer size of the French fleet, consisting of more than 300 vessels compared to Jersey’s 75.

Loic Farnham, a 30-year-old fisherman in the British Crown Dependency, said: “If it goes on like this, there won’t be any more fishing around here.”

69-year-old Richard Lebrun, who has been a fisherman for 40 years, added: “If we’d have gone across to a port in France I hate to think what would have happened to our boats.

“Let’s be honest, [the French] are rather well known for kicking off and firing petrol bombs.”

Jersey: French boats join post-Brexit fishing rights protest

Mr Lebrun blamed the row on Jersey’s “weak politicians” and added: “We are supposed to have the right to say who does and who doesn’t fish in our waters.”

Jersey Government officials said the Brexit accord stipulates licenses take into account how much time a vessel spent in Jersey’s waters before Brexit.

They said they had raised the point with Brussels whilst Lord Frost said under the terms of the trade deal, Jersey can regulate fishing in its waters.

However, the European Commission said that until further justifications had been provided by Britain, Jersey should not be attaching new conditions to licenses.

Commission spokeswoman Vivian Loonela, said: “Full compliance with the TCA (Brexit trade deal) is essential in this process.”

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