Commission accuses United Kingdom of breaching Brexit trade deal over fishing licenses

Brenda Watkins
May 7, 2021

London and Paris are at loggerheads over fishing licensing arrangements for French boats fishing in the Channel Islands, but the tension escalated in the last 24 hours when both sides dispatched patrol vessels to the self-governing island of Jersey, where French fishermen had sailed to in protest.

Dozens of French boats had descended on St Helier harbour before dawn, only pulling back after talks with Jersey officials.

He said the protest over licenses for French fishermen was not an attempt to blockade the port but rather a peaceful method of voicing anger over reduced access to Jersey waters.

"Regarding Jersey, I'll remind you, for example, of electricity transportation via undersea cable", Ms Girardin said on Tuesday.

Johnson spoke to Jersey Chief Minister John Le Fondre on Wednesday, when the pair "stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions", according to a statement from Downing Street on Wednesday evening. "It would seem disproportionate to cut off electricity for the sake of needing to provide extra details so that we can refine the licenses".

Britain sent two Royal Navy vessels, HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, to patrol the waters around Jersey and "monitor the situation", the British government said.

"The French fishermen out there want conditions removed from their licences so that they can fish with no constraints in our waters, whilst our boats are subject to all sorts of conditions", he told the Good Morning Britain TV show.

Jersey's External Relations Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, said there is no justification for such severe measures.

Opponents accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of escalating the crisis, and of using the fishing spat as an Election Day stunt.

French fishing fleet is seen at the entrance to the harbour in St Helier Jersey
French fishing fleet is seen at the entrance to the harbour in St Helier Jersey

Jersey-themed fridge magnets are on display in St. Helier, on the British island of Jersey, in November 2017.

Jersey Electricity reassured anxious islanders that the French threat would not result in a blackout.

Girardin also claimed the Jersey government - which issued 41 fishing permits to French vessels on April 30 - had placed "unilateral" restrictions on the trawlers. So, we have the means.

"Even though I am sorry that it has come to this, we will do so if we have to", she said.

Gorst told the BBC: "This is not the first threat that the French have made to either Jersey or the United Kingdom since we are into this new deal. We are not going to be able to do much", he said.

'We consider that if the new demands for sea zoning or fishing equipment are integrated into the licences - when the European Commission has not been notified - they are null and void, ' the ministry told AFP. The UK government is constitutionally responsible for the global relations of the crown dependencies.

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He added Jersey regretted a recent decision by French local authorities in neighbouring Normandy to shut down their representation on the island, saying it was based on a "misunderstanding that can be put right".

We agreed that all sides remain committed to engaging with our partners in the European Union and France to resolve the concerns arising from the issuing of fishing licenses under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which led to today's protest.

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