The EU Ambassador to the UK has called for a return to “normal procedures” in the row surrounding Jersey’s fishing licences after it exploded into French protests and threats to cut the island's electricity last month.
Ambassador João Vale de Almeida was questioned by the House of Lords European Affairs Committee on the relationship between the UK and EU, the institutional structure of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and other topics.
Early on in the hearing, EU Ambassador to the UK described Brexit as “a fundamental change” in the relationship between the EU and the UK, with the two international treaties signed after it acting as the “backdrop” against which to find solutions.
When asked how issues such as the Jersey fishing rights dispute should be resolved, Mr de Almeida said the methodology should be to “use the instruments we created, the bodies we set up within the withdrawal agreement, the joint specialised committees within the Trade and Corporation Agreement, a number of committees and working groups”.
“It’s quite a complex governance structure, we realise, but one that will allow us to address the issues in a consensual way, in a cooperative way,” he added. “We want to avoid unilateral measures and as we have seen we have some differences of view on that with the British government.”
“The fishing rights is a good example where we did not start well and that we should aim of going back to the normal procedures,” he added.
Pictured: Annick Girardin, the French Maritime Minister.
Speaking to the French Parliament in early May she said she had been “disgusted” to learn that Jersey’s new permit system included conditions on French vessels, including restrictions on the number of days per year they can fish in Jersey’s waters and the zones they can visit.
She said these had apparently been added “unilaterally” and “without explanation” – despite a previous “50 years of good relations” between the island and France.
Mr de Almeida say he had recently been “encouraged” to see the EU and the UK agree on total allowable catch for 2021 a couple of weeks ago. “This is a good inspiration for the work, it’s a good basis for future use in terms of the fishing rights and we all know this is always a controversial issue,” he said.
“There are some tensions around Jersey’s fishing licences but I hope that the atmosphere we created by this agreement on the total catches for 2021 would put us on the right trajectory in terms of the finding within our agreements, within the procedures in a consensual and joint way the solution to this problem.”
Mr de Almeida also called for a “de-dramatisation of the political discourse”.
“I think we should move on, and there are two ways of moving on. One is to score points on disputes of the past, and the other is to look forward and try to build this relationship on a solid basis, looking for solutions, looking for joint approaches to the problems that we all have. Maybe a new mindset is needed here.”
In the wake of the protests, recently licensed French vessels were given an extension until next Thursday (1 July) to provide further evidence of their fishing record to ensure they get the right licence, allowing them to continue to fish in the same way they have done over the past three years.
However, Express understands that the European Commission has asked for a further extension.
The Environment Minister was tight-lipped on whether or not this would be granted when asked by Express.
This morning, the Economic and International Affairs Panel questioned the External Relations and Financial Services Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement among other topics.
In 15 minutes, the Economic & International Affairs Panel will question the External Relations & Financial Services Minister @Ian_Gorst on:— States Assembly (@StatesAssembly) June 25, 2021
• Trade & Cooperation Agreement
• Free Trade Agreements
• International tax matters
WATCH LIVE @ 11am: https://t.co/kdKrUFZuW4 pic.twitter.com/5h5qafMnaE
The panel is responsible for scrutinising the Government's approach to foreign affairs policies, with a recent focus on Brexit.
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