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Brexit fishing row with France intensifies

2 weeks on from initial protests by French fishermen at the processing centre at Boulogn-sur-Mer, tensions continue to build in the Brexit fishing row between the UK and France. 

A pair of Royal Navy boats were sent to Jersey’s waters to disband a protest of French vessels on Thursday 6th May. France also sent maritime patrol boats to the scene, in response, but there was no further escalation and the French vessels left Jersey.

This protest follows accusations from France that the UK are using red tape to block competition from their fishing industry. Licenses have been provided for 41 French vessels to fish in Jersey waters from 1st May, but extra conditions have been applied which France, and the EU, claim are outside of the UK/EU Brexit deal.

Jersey are responsible for managing the fishing waters around them; however, the UK are responsible for the international relations and for Jersey as a whole. DEFRA have advised that they are working closely with the EU and Jersey to allow access and licensing to EU vessels, which they will do under the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). 

Why is there a row in Jersey if fishing licenses were provided?

French vessels that have been provided licenses have raised complaint with the extra conditions, such as allotted time, specific areas of access, and permitted machinery, that were present on the licenses. One vessel has claimed that it usually fishes for scallops and whelks for around 40 days in Jersey; however, the license that they have received is only for 11 days. 

Commission spokesperson Vivian Loonela said at a conference in Brussels that “the provisions of the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, that we recently agreed, have not been met there, have not been respected.”

How are France escalating the Brexit fishing row in Jersey? 

France have threatened to cut the supply of electricity to Jersey if the UK do not comply with their licensing requests. Around 95% of all of the island’s electricity comes through underwater cables from France. Although the threat is extreme, French Maritime Minister Annick Garardin said that they are “ready to use these retaliation measures”. 

Boris Johnson, who gave the order for the Royal Navy vessel support on Thursday, has stated that “The Trade and Cooperation Agreement brought in changes to fishing arrangements between the UK and the EU. Jersey have the right regulate fisheries in their waters under this agreement and we support them in exercising those rights”. He also noted that the UK “remain on standby for any support that Jersey requests.”

The EU has called for calm and constructive resolution of the Brexit fishing row. Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, ongoing dispute offers the disagreeing party the option to go to tribunal. There has been no comment or confirmation that France will begin proceedings, or that withdrawing the electricity supply of Jersey is acceptable under the terms of the TCA.

If you need help with importing or exporting fish, or more information on the Brexit fishing row, please contact us for more information.

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