The French government could cut off electricity to Jersey in a growing dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights, a French minister suggested.
Responding to questions from the national assembly, Annick Girardin, Minister for Maritime Affairs, said she was “outraged” by the behavior of the UK government in its waters and that France was ready to retaliate.
The British crown’s dependence on Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, is based on “the transmission of electricity by submarine cable,” Girardin said when questioned by members of the assembly, raising the offer as a leverage point.
“I would regret it if we got there,” said the minister, but “we will if necessary.”
The comments mark a consecutive major escalation over claims by French fishermen that they are being denied access to UK waters.
David Frost, the former chief Brexit negotiator and now minister responsible for EU relations, held scheduled talks with French Minister for European Affairs Clément Beaune on Tuesday afternoon.
The UK government is said to be using red tape to limit the operations of French fishing vessels, in violation of the trade and cooperation agreement signed with the EU on Christmas Eve. The UK government denies the claim and says Jersey is solely responsible for managing its waters.
On Friday, 41 vessels equipped with Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) technology, which enables vessel location, were authorized to fish in waters off Jersey, which is an autonomous agency.
Girardin told the French parliament that the list of approved ships came with new rules “that were neither fixed nor discussed. [with France], and of which we were not notified ”.
Assembly member Bertrand Sorre said that a Granville fisherman, who fishes scallops and whelks “on average 40 days a year” in Jersey waters, had been told he would only have access for 11 days. “The anger is raging and the desire to fight is palpable,” Sorre said.
Girardin responded that the French government would act. “It is completely unacceptable,” he said. “If we accept it in Jersey, it is dangerous for our access everywhere.”
France has described the UK’s provisions, which it says dictate where ships can and cannot go and specify how many days ships can spend in the waters and what equipment they can wear, as “null and void.” The UK government has been told that it needs to enter into talks with the European Commission on the details.
Dimitri Rogoff, chairman of the Normandy regional fisheries committee, told Agence France-Presse that “there will have to be a response to what the Jersey authorities have done in relation to fishing authorizations. We hope that the state will take retaliatory measures ”.
A Defra spokesperson said: “We are clear that Jersey is responsible for its own territorial waters. The UK government is constitutionally responsible for the international relations of the Crown Dependencies. As such, we have been working closely with the EU and the Jersey government on the provisions for access to fishing after the end of the transition period for licensing. “
Last week, Beaune threatened to block UK financial firms from accessing the EU market if problems related to fishing rights persisted.
“We are asking for the entire agreement, nothing but the agreement, and until it is implemented, we will take retaliatory measures in other sectors if necessary,” Beaune said. “The UK awaits a series of authorizations from us on financial services. We will not give any until we have guarantees that, on fisheries and other matters, the UK is honoring its commitments. It is give and take. Each side must respect its commitments, otherwise we will be as brutal and difficult as necessary ”.
French fishermen recently blocked the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, claiming that only 22 of the 120 boats that normally worked from Hauts-de-France had accessed the six to 12-mile area off the UK coast.
The UK government has denied the claim. He said the UK Single Issuing Authority had issued licenses to fish in the six to 12 nautical mile zone to the 87 French vessels that had applied for them and met the qualification criteria. About 40 additional requests required more information and controls, the government added.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism