Jersey’s “unacceptable” fishing regime came under further fire in the corridors of Brussels this week – while Guernsey has won praise from French authorities for its approach.
The European Commission is calling for the island’s new system for controlling its waters after Brexit to be suspended, backing calls from French fishers who protested in St. Helier harbour earlier this month over fears their trade was being intentionally strangled with red tape.
This, they claim, breaks the UK-EU Brexit deal, which Jersey and the UK deny.
As an act of “good faith” after the protests, Jersey offered the Norman and Breton fishers more time to get their paperwork in order to ensure they get the right type of licence. They have until 1 July.
But the offer has failed to smooth things over and the matter has been escalated to London and Brussels.
Pictured: The protest at St. Helier harbour earlier this month.
A spokesperson for the European Commission, which says it wants scientific evidence justifying why the island felt it necessary to impose limits on days at sea and fishing zones, told Express it is still considering representations made by the UK Government on behalf of Jersey on 8 May and preparing its reply. Jersey has always maintained that any restrictions were based on conservation need and followed legal advice.
The maritime diplomatic crisis was discussed on Tuesday by the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) and the EU Fisheries Commissioner, Virginius Sinkevičius.
While the meeting was officially held behind closed doors, two members of the Commission shared a sense of the mood on Twitter.
Commission PECH cet après-midi : nous échangeons à huis clos avec le Commissaire à la pêche sur les négociations en cours. @s_yoncourtin a insisté sur la nécessité de rester ferme face aux exigences britanniques inacceptables! pic.twitter.com/XrLZZMxSS4— Pierre Karleskind (@Pierre_Ka) May 25, 2021
Committee President Pierre Karleskind said: “We discussed the ongoing negotiations in camera with the Fisheries Comissioner.
“[Calvados MEP and PECH member Stéphanie Yon-Courtin] insisted on the need to remain firm in the face of unacceptable British demands.”
Ms Yon-Courtin later tweeted herself: “In camera discussion with [the Fisheries Commissioner] on the unacceptable conditions attached to licences for fishing in Jersey waters.
“With [Mr Karleskind], we called for rigorous enforcement of the agreement signed between Europe and the United Kingdon. Our fishermen are demanding concrete action.”
Échange à huis clos avec @VSinkevicius, sur les licences assorties de conditions inacceptables pour pêcher dans les eaux de Jersey. Avec @Pierre_Ka nous avons appelé à faire respecter rigoureusement l’accord signé entre l'& le . Nos pêcheurs demandent des actions concrètes. pic.twitter.com/HG56d7PibM— Stéphanie Yon-Courtin (@s_yoncourtin) May 25, 2021
While Guernsey also had to come to a new arrangement for controlling fishing in its waters after Brexit, it has not been roped into the row.
Yesterday, it confirmed that it would be further delaying the start of its new regime until the end of June 2021, following previous extensions in March and April, to allow for “technical issues” to be resolved.
External Relations lead Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq and Economic Development Committee President Deputy Neil Inder met La Manche President Marc Lefèvre and Normandy President Hervé Morin to discuss future licensing policy.
An article in French publication Tendance Ouest said that Deputy Le Tocq expressed concerns during the meeting that Jersey’s approach would make things difficult for Guernsey fishers despite being an “issue that doesn’t concern” the island.
In an official statement after the meeting, Deputy Le Tocq said: “The decision to extend the interim licensing regime for a further month provides certainty for French fishing vessels while the final remaining technical issues are being resolved. This will ensure that we will be able to approach the licensing process with clarity and transparency, in the spirit of the TCA [the UK-EU Brexit deal, ed.] to support our wider engagement with our closest neighbours.”
He continued: “We continue to have a constructive relationship with the neighbouring authorities in Normandy and La Manche and are in regular dialogue as we finalise and move towards the implementation of the TCA licensing regime. I look forward to discussing arrangements for our mutual benefit, including to reopen access to Diélette for Bailiwick fishermen once the TCA licensing regime is in place.”
Deputy Inder added: “It is important that we maintain a stable and predictable economic relationship for the fishing industry in and around the Bailiwick. We are dependent on trade both in terms of access to waters and in terms of access to ports and EU markets. The TCA seeks to balance these interests and interrelationships to ensure peaceful use of our waters under the limited terms of access granted in the treaty and under the control of the Bailiwick. We look forward to the full implementation of the TCA licensing regime in order to ensure the objectives are achieved. In the meantime, the extension approved by the Committee on 25 May reflects the importance of allowing sufficient time for the ongoing discussions, so that when we issue licences we can be confident that they are fully reflective of the Bailiwick’s obligations under the TCA."
The approach won praise from the French regional Presidents, who together said they “appreciate the spirit of openness and transparency that marks our discussions.”
In what could be read as a veiled gibe at Jersey, they added: “This is likely to maintain a calm atmosphere between our professionals and our institutions.”
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