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European Commission says Jersey fishing permits broke Brexit deal

European Commission says Jersey fishing permits broke Brexit deal

Thursday 06 May 2021

European Commission says Jersey fishing permits broke Brexit deal


The European Commission has said that Jersey's new regime for controlling fishing in its waters has broken the UK-EU Brexit deal.

The Commission says it agrees with French allegations that Jersey's new permit regime discriminates against their fishermen and breaches the trade agreement, and is calling on Britain to tell Jersey to revoke the conditions attached to the permits.

Those conditions included limits on the number of days at sea and zones in which they could fish.

The EU Commission's spokesperson for ocean and fisheries matters, Vivian Loonela, told Express: "The Commission was notified on Friday 30 April by UK authorities of the granting of 41 licences to EU vessels for fishing in Jersey’s territorial waters as of 1 May with specific conditions.

"The Commission has clearly indicated to the UK that the provisions of the EU-UKTCA have not been respected. Until the UK authorities provide further justifications on the new conditions, these new conditions should not apply.

"To recall, under the EU-UKTCA, any new specific conditions to fishing authorisations that limit EU fishing activities in UK waters must  comply with the objectives and principles set out in the TCA, which are based on clear scientific rationale. Any such conditions must also be non-discriminatory between UK and EU vessels. Furthermore, any proposed management conditions have to be notified in advance to the other party, giving them sufficient time to assess and react to the proposed measures. 

"We are engaging in good faith with UK to solve this issue. We call for calm while we continue our discussions. This is in the best interest of our fishing community. Full compliance with the TCA is essential.

"The Commission remains in close contact with France and the UK on the matter."

Express has asked Jersey's Government for a comment on the European Commission's allegation, and is yet to receive a reply.

On Wednesday, it defended the conditions it added to the fishing permits, saying they were in line with "legal advice" and imposed "in good faith", and “with due regard to non-discriminatory and scientific principles” in applying the conditions. However, they said they were taking the complaints of the French fishermen “very seriously” and planned to “respond in full”.

Up to 70 French vessels staged a protest around St. Helier harbour, and delayed the freight-carrying Commodore Goodwill during a blockade earlier this morning. Shortly before 13:00, they retreated back to France. 

Emergency talks lasting 90 minutes were held this morning between Assistant Minister Gregory Guida, who is French, and French officials.

Jersey's delegation was on board the island's Norman Le Brocq patrol boat, which pulled up alongside the Normandy Trader, hosting the French officials. 

Video: Assistant Minister Gregory Guida, on the Norman Le Brocq, could be spotted talking in an animated fashion with the French fishermen on the Normandy Trader.

Yesterday, the Assistant Minister told the French radio station France Bleu that he felt the row over licences was the result of a communications problem.

To issue licences, Jersey relied on information being sent from France to the EU to Britain and then to Jersey. He said that the licences and their associated conditions were issued based on the paperwork they received. These, he said, were full of "horreurs", with missing and duplicated documents.

He was firm that Jersey had "no interest in remaining at odds with France." 

Jersey's External Relations Minister yesterday suggested to the President of La Manche Region, Marc Lefèvre, during a 45-minute meeting that Jersey and France should communicate directly, but he declined. M. Lefèvre replied: "Negotiations must absolutely pass through the European Union and UK."

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Pictured: President of the Manche Region speaking to External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst.

Following the emergency talks, however, Assistant Minister Gregory Guida told Express that Jersey and France had now been given the green light to speak to each other directly.

“We will also be re-establishing a liaison committee with French and Jersey fishermen, and their administrations, so there will be a mechanism for ongoing discussions, as we did under the old Bay of Granville Agreement," he explained.

The French fishermen's protest was an act of retaliation after some were denied permits to fish in the island’s waters, while others were aggrieved by the conditions they claimed Jersey had “unilaterally” added to the permits when they were issued last week. 

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.

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Pictured: French boats surrounding the Commodore Goodwill earlier this morning.

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.

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