A French Minister has hinted at cutting Jersey’s energy supplies yet again, as he suggested that measures to apply pressure over the fishing row would be announced within “days”.
Last week, Jersey announced that up to 95 small boats could 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.
The final number was, however, significantly more than the 12 issued by the UK to EU boats.
Speaking to Europe 1 on the matter yesterday, European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said that France was left incensed by Jersey’s announcement, and said it felt the UK-EU Brexit deal wasn’t being respected.
"Enough already, we have an agreement negotiated by France, by [EU former chief negotiator, ed.] Michel Barnier, and it should be applied 100%. It isn't being," he said.
"In the next few days - and I talked to my European counterparts on this subject yesterday - we will take measures at the European level or nationally, to apply pressure on the United Kingdom."
"We defend our interests. We do it nicely, and diplomatically, but when that doesn't work, we take measures," Mr Beaune, who later described Brexit as "populist" and a "failure", added.
“The Channel Islands, the UK, are dependent on us for their energy supply. They think they can live on their own and badmouth Europe as well. And because it doesn’t work, they indulge in one-upmanship, and in an aggressive way."
#Brexit | « Les Britanniques pensent qu’ils peuvent vivre tout seuls et taper sur l’Europe. Comme ça ne marche pas, ils font de la surenchère. Ça suffit. Notre gouvernement soutient et défend nos pêcheurs, on continuera. » @SoMabrouk @Europe1 ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/mXpqJ2avqT— Clement Beaune (@CBeaune) October 5, 2021
Pictured: "The British think they can live all alone and badmouth Europe. As that doesn't work, they engage in one-upmanship... Our Government supports and defends our fishermen, and will continue to do so," Mr Beaune tweeted.
The power cut threat was previously raised by Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, ahead of French fishers storming St. Helier harbour in protest at Jersey’s post-Brexit licensing regime in May.
Jersey was clear at the time, however, that the electricity supply, which is delivered via undersea cables, would be protected by a commercial contract with EDF.
Responding to the threat at the Conservative Party conference yesterday, Brexit Minister Lord David Frost strongly refuted breaking the UK-EU trade deal.
He said that 98% of licence applications had been granted according to criteria in the agreement, going on to add: “We have been extremely generous and the French, focusing in on a small category of boats and claiming we have behaved unreasonably, I think is not really a fair reflection of the efforts we have made."
Pictured: French boats surrounding the Commodore Goodwill during May's protest.
Prime Minister Jean Castex also threatened retaliatory action when speaking in the Assemblée yesterday.
But he said this would not be the first step, suggesting instead that France would first appeal to an arbitration panel, but told the French parliament that it was prepared to suspend bilateral agreements with the UK.
“We will use the arbitration panel of the agreement to force the British to respect their word. We will question all the conditions for the more comprehensive implementation of the agreements concluded under the aegis of the European Union, but also, if necessary, the bilateral cooperation that we have with the United Kingdom in many areas.”
Licences de pêche refusées à des bateaux français dans le cadre du #Brexit : "La Grande-Bretagne ne respecte pas la signature qu'elle a elle-même donnée", déclare @JeanCASTEX.— LCP (@LCP) October 5, 2021
> Le Premier ministre saisira, si cela est nécessaire, "le panel arbitral de l'accord".#DirectAN pic.twitter.com/iBg9mrABSV
Previously asked whether the island was prepared for a negative French reaction by Express, including more demonstrations, External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst said: “We have contingency plans and we have a prepared position."
He added: "We must remind ourselves that, in compliance with the trade agreement, we have given a 30-day notice period so those who will be given licences have been given 30-day notice period, as have those who we don’t have the data for.
“We are not creating a cliff edge - we are creating an opportunity to continue to work together. Even though feelings are running high, we have expressed the view to our French colleagues that there remains time for us to continue to work together, for those boats that have that historic track record."
Pictured: French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin was the first to make the power cut threat back in May.
In making its licensing announcement last week, Jersey confirmed that certain conditions attached – a key cause of many French fishers’ anger - would be temporarily suspended pending further discussions with the EU.
Such conditions include ‘days at sea’ and ‘gear used’.
During May’s protests, the European Commission claimed that the inclusion of these conditions was in breach of the Brexit agreement.
Marine conservation charity Blue Marine urgently called on Jersey this week to reinstate the conditions, saying that suspending them was threatening the sustainability of local fish stocks.
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