Around 70 French boats sailed into St. Helier harbour on Thursday morning in a dramatic protest over fishing rights, with Royal Navy boats keeping watch. Here, Express brings you live updates on how the crisis is continuing to develop today.
The protest was an act of retaliation by the French fishermen after some were denied permits to fish in the island’s waters, while others were aggrieved by conditions they claimed Jersey had “unilaterally” added to the permits. These conditions included restrictions on fishing zones and the number of days they could spend at sea per year.
The change to a disputed fishing licence system came about because of Brexit, with the UK and Jersey becoming a ‘third country’ in the eyes of the EU. A trade deal between the two nations was signed at the end of December, which was finally ratified by the EU last Tuesday.
Previously, between 2004 and 31 December last year, the management of Jersey’s waters between three and 12 miles was shared between France and the island under the Bay of Granville Agreement, which was signed by France and the UK in 2000.
Before that, Jersey only had control out to three miles and around the Ecréhous and Minquiers reefs. The space in between was classed as “common sea” not belonging to anyone.
Angered by the additional conditions added to the licences, the Manche and Normandy regions close their office in Jersey for the first time in 25 years.
La @RegionNormandie et le @MancheCD50 ferment leur représentation à #Jersey suite aux annonces d’un nombre de jours limités de droits de pêche pour les marins #Normands et demandent au Gouvernement de saisir la Commission Européenne. pic.twitter.com/t7D490QVp7— NormandieConquérante (@NdieConquerante) May 3, 2021
Following a meeting of regional fishing committees, Granville blocks Jersey fishermen from landing their catch there.
The committees also start calling on local businesses to stop buying Jersey products.
France's Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, threatens to cut the island's electricity in "retaliation" at some of the conditions applied to French fishing permits.
Nous sommes aux côtés des pêcheurs ???????? dépendant d'un accès aux eaux britanniques. Nos voisins imposent des critères n'appartenant pas à l'accord post-#Brexit. Le droit est formel, les conventions doivent être respectées. Nous veillerons à ce que l'accord signé fin 2020 le soit. pic.twitter.com/vVoEW6duO3— Annick Girardin (@AnnickGirardin) May 4, 2021
“In the [Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement signed in December], there are retaliatory measures… and we are ready to use them,” she told France's parliament, the Assemblée Nationale.
"...Concerning Jersey, for example, there’s the transmission of electricity by under-sea cable, so we have the means - and I am sorry if it comes to this, but we will if we have to."
08:30 - Jean-Marc Julienne, the Vice-President of the neighbouring La Manche department, tells Express that the fishing dispute may have been the result of "poor reading", as he urged islanders not to paint his region's fishermen as "the bad guys".
But he also maintained that Jersey still needed to give back the fishing rights to Norman boats that the island removed on Saturday, when a new regime was introduced following Brexit.
"Maybe the French didn't read the document properly" | Bailiwick Express https://t.co/KcHgXDYNqm— Bailiwick Express (@bailiwickxpress) May 5, 2021
11:04 - Jersey Electricity assures islanders that they will not be left in the dark if the French do follow through with their threat of pulling the plug.
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 pic.twitter.com/2W0WR3lGTf— Jersey Electricity plc (@electricjersey) May 5, 2021
Just before 20:00 - A Downing Street spokesperson said just before 20:00 “This evening the Prime Minister spoke to the Chief Minister of Jersey, Senator John Le Fondré, and the Minister of External Relations, Ian Gorst, about the prospect of a blockade of St. Helier.
“The Prime Minister and Chief Minister stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions and for dialogue between Jersey and France on fishing access.
“The Prime Minister underlined his unwavering support for Jersey. He said that any blockade would be completely unjustified. As a precautionary measure, the UK will be sending two Offshore Patrol Vessels to monitor the situation.
“They agreed the UK and Jersey Governments would continue to work closely on the issue."
Grateful to Prime Minister @BorisJohnson for speaking with @Ian_Gorst and me this evening, and offering his wholehearted support in de-escalating the tensions between Jersey and our French neighbours over fishing access.— John Le Fondre (@John_Le_Fondre) May 5, 2021
20:05 - Jersey’s Chief Minister, John Le Fondré says he is “grateful” to the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson for speaking with him and Senator Ian Gorst and for offering “his wholehearted support in de-escalating the tensions between Jersey and our French neighbours over fishing access”.
20:10 – A few minutes later, Senator Ian Gorst, the International Relations Minister, follows up thanking the Prime Minister for “his support and reassurances”, adding Jersey will “continue to work closely with the UK Government in order to resolve the current challenges diplomatically and avoid any unnecessary escalation".
HMS Severn and HMS Tamar are deploying to Jersey to conduct maritime security patrols. This is a strictly precautionary measure and has been agreed with the Jersey Government.— Ministry of Defence ???????? (@DefenceHQ) May 5, 2021
21:59 – The Minister of Defence confirms HMS Severn and HMS Tamar are deploying to Jersey to conduct maritime security patrols, describing the move as “a strictly precautionary measure and has been agreed with the Jersey Government”.
23:00 - News of the Royal Navy making its way to Jersey captures the attention of thousands of social media users - many of whom have begun posting '#JeSuisJersey' in solidarity with the island's plight.
Among them are controversial politician George Galloway, who shared the sentiment to his 366,000-plus followers, and TV presenter of documentary series 'Coast' and author of 'The Story of the British Isles' Neil Oliver.
That’s my Tweet. #JeSuisJersey— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) May 5, 2021
Je suis Jersey.— Neil Oliver (@thecoastguy) May 5, 2021
'Jersey' is also trending in the United Kingdom on Twitter - the second most popular topic after the Champions League match between Chelsea and Real Madrid.
Also trending are #WarWithFrance (7th), Falklands (12th), the Channel Islands (15th), and Macron (21st), the French President.
Many national newspapers are planning on carrying the story of the Navy being sent to the island on their front pages, for example...
03:30 - HMS Severn, which is stationed near Corbiere, appears to escort Commodore Goodwill along the island’s west coast.
06:00 – Around 70 French boats arrive in local waters and proceed to blockade the harbour.
07:00 – French boats have backed off and moved behind Elizabeth Castle but the Goodwill missed its tidal window, and is now stuck until after 11:30, along with the Sarnia Liberty.
Video: Scenes from the French protest around 07:00.
07:07 – Jersey Police are patrolling around Albert Pier and Elizabeth Harbour.
Police Chief Robin Smith said this morning that they had "no issues or concerns".
08:51 – The French boats return into the harbour as they wait for Jersey representatives to come and speak to them.
09:00 – Athos, a vessel from the Gendarmerie Maritime de Manche et du Mer du Nord, is seen patrolling French waters near the area.
The role of the Gendarmerie Maritime, which is under the responsibility of the region's Préfet, is to rescue human life at sea and they regularly patrol French waters. A spokesperson confirms they have been asked to stay nearby in case someone falls at sea.
10:38 - According to a French journalist, the Normandy Trader is bringing a group of French fishermen to St Helier to speak to Senator Gorst.
Shortly before 11:00 - Emergency fishing crisis talks start between Jersey Ministers and French officials from Saint Malo, Granville and Carteret at the harbour.
Assistant Minister Gregory Guida, who is French, is attending alongside and other Government officials.
Video: Deputy Guida could be seen talking animatedly with the fishermen in the video above.
Meanwhile, a video showing a French vessel slamming into a Jersey boat has begun circulating on social media.
The collision happened after the Jersey vessel first swerved into the French boat.
11:08 - The Goodwill left the harbour for Guernsey, and onwards to Portsmouth.
It says it agrees with French allegations that Jersey's new permit regime discriminates against their fishermen and breaches the UK-EU Brexit trade deal, and is calling on Britain to tell Jersey to revoke the conditions attached to the permits.
11:43 - French authorities have confirmed to Express that the Themis, a vessel belonging to the Affaires Maritimes, which is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Ecology, is also on its way.
A spokesperson said the vessel was being sent to patrol alongside the Athos as part of its public service mission to ensure the safety of people at sea.
12:29 - Ports of Jersey have contacted the fishermen to ask them to let the fuel boat leave without a fuss.
12:44 - Condor Ferries issued a statement saying Commodore Goodwill had to be delayed until "safe passage could be arranged".
A spokesperson for the company said the vessel had arrived in Jersey at 04:30, discharged her cargo as usual before leaving for Guernsey at 11:15, just over four hours behind schedule. As a result of the delay, timings for today and tomorrow's sailings have been revised.
"Disruption was minimal with no impact on the freight supply chain, which brings in 95% of the essential food, medical and other goods into the Channel Islands," Condor Ferries said.
The company expect its freight and passenger vessel, Commodore Clipper, to operate to Jersey this afternoon from Portsmouth and Guernsey as normal.
Just before 13:00 - The Normandy Trader has brought the French officials back and is returning to the harbour.
Meanwhile, a French journalist reports that French fishermen can be heard over the radio complaining about the talks, with the captain of a boat called the Pearl saying: "It's sh*t, I'm upset" and others suggesting cutting Jersey's electricity supply is the only option.
Sur la VHF, Cyril Piraud le patron du Pearl a Granville fait le point : « c’est la merde, je suis dépité... je me demande même pourquoi on est allé les voir. Ils renvoient la faute sur l’Etat français qui n’a pas fourni selon eux les bonnes données. »— Marie Carof-Gadel (@mcarofgad) May 6, 2021
13:05 - As a "see you soon", French vessels let off one last puff of smoke as they depart.
Dernier ballet de fumigènes devant #Jersey une manière de dire « see you soon » merci beaucoup d’avoir suivi leur action à travers ce compte. Laurent, Michel et Thomas à bord avec moi vous remercient pour vos messages de soutien pic.twitter.com/CfEFtGbz6p— Marie Carof-Gadel (@mcarofgad) May 6, 2021
13:30 - Assistant Minister Deputy Gregory Guida, who was leading the Jersey delegation during the emergency talks at Victoria Pier, tells Express he felt the talks were "positive".
“We are now able to speak with them directly. The data [required for the fishing permits] must still come from the EU via the UK, but we have now been given the ability to talk to the fishermen directly to query any missing data. That is an important step forward," he explained.
13:39 - Jersey Government issued a statement saying the Prime Minister had given his "full support to Jersey’s management of the French fishermen’s protest".
The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, Deputy Chief Minister, Senator Lyndon Farnham, and the Minister for External Relations Senator Ian Gorst discussed the latest developments with Boris Johnson this morning.
Pictured: The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, Deputy Chief Minister, Senator Lyndon Farnham, and the Minister for External Relations Senator Ian Gorst spoke with the Prime Minister this morning.
The Prime Minister said that, although the French vessels are retreating, that HMS Tamar and HMS Severn will remain in place as a precaution.
Senator Gorst commented: “The Prime Minister reiterated his personal support, and the continued assistance of the UK Government in working to resolve the dispute. We agreed that all sides remain committed to engaging with our partners in the EU 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.”
18:16 - The Prime Minister confirms that the Royal Navy vessels are leaving and returning to UK ports. He said they will remain on "standby" in case needed.
Boris Johnson also gives his backing to Jersey following the allegations from the European Commission that the island's fishing permit regime has broken the UK-EU Trade Agreement.
"Jersey authorities have a right to regulate fisheries in their waters under this agreement and we support them in exercising those rights," Mr Johnson commented.
"We will work with Jersey to support the discussions underway with the European Commission."
19:40 - Brexit Minister Lord David Frost also gives his backing to Jersey in a tweet, saying: "Our Agreement with the EU gives Jersey rights to regulate fishing in its waters and we support Jersey in doing so."
I am glad the situation in Jersey has been resolved for now. Our Agreement with the EU gives Jersey rights to regulate fishing in its waters and we support Jersey in doing so. https://t.co/rEQsbtQlj0— David Frost (@DavidGHFrost) May 6, 2021
22:00 - It's revealed that the fishing crisis protests in Jersey are set to make the front pages of national UK newspapers for a second day. Click to enlarge the image below...
22:53 - The drama unfolding in Jersey is a key talking point on Question Time.
Former Commons Speaker John Bercow is not positive about the Prime Minister's decision to send in the Navy to support Jersey.
“It’s an absurd act of gunboat diplomacy.”— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) May 6, 2021
Former Commons Speaker John Bercow says No. 10’s actions were “juvenile and down market” after the UK sent two navy vessels to Jersey over a fishing row with France. #bbcqt pic.twitter.com/e6Ud7KqL2U
"It's a bit of jingoistic sabre-rattling. If you tell me or anybody does tonight that the despatch of those ships and the fact of election day are unrelated, I can say only that you will believe anything," he says.
"Its juvenile, its down market, its not constructive, it doesn't advance the cause of the arguments that need to be resolved."
09:00 - Jersey Government officials are understood to be meeting with EU representatives to put their side of the story forward in the row over its new regime for controlling its waters.
15:40 – The Government says they have received a a formal notification from La Manche département that commercial operations on departure and arrival at Granville, Barneville-Carteret and Dielette had been suspended and the unloading of fishery products is not authorised for Jersey vessels until further notice.
Meanwhile, a Sud-Manche Deputy Bertrand Sorre wrote to President Emmanuel Macron to complain of the “restrictive measures unilaterally imposed by the UK and Jersey” which he said puts the activities of up to 340 boats “in immediate danger.”
Avec @LoigCG nous demandons à la Commission Européenne et @VSinkevicius d'agir pour faire respecter les accords sur la pêche dans les Iles Anglo-Normandes notamment dans les eaux de #Jersey ! pic.twitter.com/XtAWPz3L1O
Avec @LoigCG nous demandons à la Commission Européenne et @VSinkevicius d'agir pour faire respecter les accords sur la pêche dans les Iles Anglo-Normandes notamment dans les eaux de #Jersey ! pic.twitter.com/XtAWPz3L1O— Hervé Morin (@Herve_Morin) May 7, 2021
Hervé Morin and Loïg Chesnais-Girard, the President of the Normandy and Brittany Region respectively have written to Virginijus Sinkevičius, the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, saying the current situation had angered the fishermen that have been fishing in Jersey waters “for centuries”.
The pair urged the European Commission to ensure the conditions of the agreement be respected, adding it was “urgent” to call a meeting of the fishing Committee mentioned in the TCA to resolve the situation.
They also called for the creation of a local advisory committee, bringing together fishermen and local authorities, including the Normandy and Brittany Regions, saying it would help re-establish communication between those who are directly involved as well as facilitating decision-making at a higher level.
Follow Express for updates...
"Maybe the French didn't read the document properly," says Maison de Normandie President
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