On Wednesday night, the British government ordered two of the fleet’s patrol boats to head into the waters around Jersey in the English Channel. The reason is the difficult dispute over fishing rights in the area after Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. Later in the evening, the situation calmed down again.
Royal Navy ships will block a French plan to close St Helier, Jersey’s most important port, with fishing boats.
According to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this is a “precautionary measure”. He says such a blockade is “totally unjustified”.
The struggle over fishing rights in the English Channel has escalated in recent days, with new terms being added in the UK. For example, the owner of every French fishing boat must be able to report their previous catch in the waters around Jersey.
France’s Minister of Maritime Affairs, Annick Girardin, said Jersey deliberately wanted to delay the issuance of permits. France reminds that according to the Brexit agreement, the British must notify the European Commission of any changes to the regulations.
The Brexit agreement provides for the possibility of countermeasures. In this case, we are ready to take such action, Girardin said on Tuesday at the French National Assembly.
Jersey gets 95 percent of its electricity via submarine cables from France, and the minister suggested that a vital supply could be cut off.
And Girardin warned that “even if it is unfortunate that we are forced to do it, we will if we have to.”
It is “unreasonable” to threaten for protest purposes only
Jersey, with a population of 108,000, is located in the English Channel, 23 kilometers from the coast of France and 140 kilometers from the shores of England. The island is technically not part of the United Kingdom and thus did not belong to the European Union even before Brexit. But the island’s foreign relations are handled by London.
Ian Gorst, Jersey’s Secretary of Foreign Relations, remembers that it takes time to adjust to the new regulations. He says Jersey has always strived to find a smooth transition.
According to Gorst, it is unreasonable to threaten a power cut solely in protest of a change in the procedures for granting fishing permits.
Gorst told the BBC: “This is not the first time that France has threatened Jersey or the UK since we reached this new agreement.”
In the negotiations on the Brexit agreement, fishing was one of the most difficult issues.
All ships home all night
On Thursday night, the French fishermen left the port of Jersey and returned to France, at which point Britain announced that the two ships of the fleet had also been withdrawn from Jersey.
“As the situation is calm at the moment, Royal Navy ships can prepare to return to a port in the United Kingdom,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
Article updated at 20:50 with information that both sides are going home.
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