United Kingdom spat escalates over Jersey fishing grounds

HMS Severn an offshore patrol vessel is the type of vessel ready for deployment in January 2021

HMS Severn an offshore patrol vessel is the type of vessel ready for deployment in January 2021

Two offshore patrol vessels are to be sent to "monitor the situation" in Jersey as rows over post-Brexit fishing rights escalate.

"Following enquiries from our customers regarding the French fishing dispute, JE can reassure customers that in the unlikely event electricity supplies from France are disrupted, La Collette Power Station and Queens' Road has capacity to supply Jersey's electricity requirements", the utility said in a statement.

A "misunderstanding" over post-Brexit fishing licences has led to France threatening to cut electricity to Jersey, a senior politician has said. Around 95 per cent of Jersey's electricity is carried by underwater cables from France, with the remaining covered by diesel generators on the island.

Jersey and Guernsey, the two autonomous islands' position extends the British maritime Exclusive Economic Zone across the English Channel nearly to the French coast.

Jersey's External Relations Minister, Ian Gorst, insisted that there was no justification for such severe measures. French fishermen are protesting against this issuing of fishing licenses.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson believed "any blockade would be completely unjustified" and that the Navy vessels would be deployed as a "precautionary measure".

She told the French parliament that new rules governing access to Channel Islands waters were unacceptable - and that France was "ready to use. retaliatory measures".

"It is not the first threat that France has made", Gorst stressed, pointing out that hold-up was simply down to fishermen failing to provide information on their historical catches in the waters.

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The row emerged over a new licensing system for French fishing vessels introduced by the Government of Jersey under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

Britain's government said earlier Wednesday that the French threat was "clearly unacceptable and disproportionate" and that it was working with the European Union and Jersey over the fishing matter following the end of the Brexit transition period.

In recent weeks, Paris and London have increasingly clashed over fishing, which divided the parties during the Brexit talks, as French fishing firms say they are being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulty obtaining licenses.

Senator Gorst said Jersey was committed to "finding a smooth transition to the new regime" and he would be speaking to the French government on Tuesday to clear up any confusion.

"It would seem disproportionate to cut off electricity for the sake of needing to provide extra details so that we can refine the licences".

"We will continue to do everything we can to make sure this agreement is respected", he said.

"If the United Kingdom wants to introduce new measures, it must notify the EC which in turn notifies us - that allows for us to engage in a dialogue", the ministry said.

"I do think a solution can be found".

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