Jersey Ministers are hoping that strained relations with France have been “reset” by a meeting with the country’s Maritime Minister this morning.
Amid the continuing row over post-Brexit fishing rights, France’s Annick Girardin announced a 15-day “plan of action” to “get my licences back” earlier this month, which included seeking backing for potential “retaliatory measures” should they be needed.
Last week, she secured the support of 10 EU member states – Germany, Belgium, Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portgual and Sweden – in calls to get the United Kingdom and Channel Islands to concede to their demands for all fishing licence applications to be granted.
#Brexit | Cette convention a été signée par 11 pays membres de l'UE ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????— Annick Girardin (@AnnickGirardin) October 11, 2021
L'objectif de l'accord : garantir la continuité de l'accès des navires européens dans un cadre équitable. Le Royaume-Uni l'a signé, il doit le respecter. #IWantMyLicensesBack pic.twitter.com/rsl7An8OWy
Regional fishing representatives also joined Ms Girardin in Brussels, where they met with the European Commission officials to discuss the matter.
While there, Normandy fishing committee head Dimitri Rogoff presented European Commission Vice-President for Interinstitutional Relations Maroš Šefčovič with a “golden whelk”, which he said was to ensure “he does not forget the fishermen in Jersey waters still awaiting their permits”.
Jersey has so far announced that up to 95 small boats are likely to be given a licence to fish in its waters, but told 75 boats that they did not meet the criteria and had 30 days’ notice to stop fishing around Jersey and its reefs.
#Iwantmylicencesback#brexit #normandie #IAN— ROGOFF Dimitri (@Pecheur_pro) October 16, 2021
J'ai remis au Vice-Président de la CE M.Šefčovič un "bulot d'or" afin qu'il n'oublie pas les pêcheurs qui sur la COTW et dans les eaux de Jersey vont pêcher et attendent leurs permis. pic.twitter.com/MnRcbOj5RP
Licences granted so far have been based on data about previous fishing activities – but the French argue that this necessity is unfair, as many smaller vessels are not equipped with appropriate tracking equipment.
Jersey’s Government has also previously argued that that the fact it cannot communicate directly with France under the terms of the UK-EU Brexit deal – instead having to pass information via London and Brussels - has slowed the process of granting licences.
Describing this morning’s meeting with Ms Girardin alongside Home Affairs Minister and Frenchman Deputy Gregory Guida and UK DEFRA Minister Victoria Prentis as “an opportunity to reset relations”, External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst tweeted that “constructive and ongoing dialogue, plus provision of data, are key to achieving resolution on fisheries”.<
The comments stood in stark contrast to an official statement issued by Ms Girardin on Friday, in which she said the matter was “not technical, it is political”.
After this morning’s meeting, she tweeted: “The idea is to move forward together but my message remains the same: France and the EU are ready to take action to obtain the desired licences, in accordance with the Brexit agreement”.
She added in English: “#IwantMyLicencesBack.”
L'idée est bien d'avancer ensemble mais mon message reste le même : la France et l’Union européenne restent mobilisées afin d'obtenir les licences voulues, dans le respect de l'accord du #Brexit. #IWantMyLicensesBack pic.twitter.com/o1GjMg2nkc— Annick Girardin (@AnnickGirardin) October 18, 2021
Senator Gorst tweeted after the meeting that Jersey, the UK and France would be "working together with EU will ensure all parties abide by the TCA for the benefit of both fishing communities. #communicationanddata"
Later, the Minister met with EU Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, ahead of what were described as "official technical meetings tomorrow".
Ms Girardin had previously warned that France could pull the plug on Jersey's electricity supply if the licensing row was not resolved, but that threat was recently scaled back.
Earlier this month, the country's Minister for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, said earlier this month that "reducing" the supply as an act of retaliation was still possible, but "cutting the power to each inhabitant of Jersey this winter will not happen.”
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