Norman fishers want to start talking directly with Jersey again, with the President of their regional fishing committee saying the France-EU-UK dialogue imposed by Brexit is continuing to cause problems.
Dimitri Rogoff, the President of the Comité Régional des Pêches Maritimes et des Élevages Marins de Normandie spoke yesterday during a press conference announcing blockades in French ports.
Announced by Gérard Romiti, the President of the Comité National des Pêches Maritimes et des Élevages Marins, the national fisheries committee, the movement saw Saint Malo blocked this morning, and Ouistreham in the afternoon.
Meanwhile in Calais, the port was “paralysed” between 12:00 and 13:30, and there are plans to block highway access to the Eurotunnel between 14:00 and 16:00.
Pictured: Today's protest was announced yesterday during a press conference organised by Comité National des Pêches Maritimes et des Élevages Marins, the national fisheries committee.
Mr Romiti described the action as “legitimate” and said it was in reaction to the “provocative, contemptuous and humiliating” behaviour of the UK against French fishermen.
Mr Rogoff said the UK had shown no willingness to resolve the situation. “The British are waiting out the clock and are sitting on the issues," he commented
He said that there had been no direct contact between French authorities and Jersey on the issue, except in the case of the emergency talks during May’s protest, which he described as a “courtesy call”, and the Normandy Summit in September.
Under the terms of the Brexit deal, all communications from Jersey must pass through the UK and onto the EU then down to France. while Norman and Breton fishers must firstly speak to Paris, which sends fishers' information through the same chain in the opposite direction - something Mr Rogoff said needed to change.
Asked whether he saw re-establishing direct communications with Jersey as a way out of the dispute by Express, he replied: “Absolutely! The three-way discussion system is not working.”
He acknowledged that Jersey had not had a say in the Brexit deal and reminded the island was a “close neighbour” to Normandie, calling islanders “our Norman cousins” - though he suggested islanders have more British traits than French ones, and went on to state that the Government appeared to be “nit-picking” over some of the licences in dispute, despite knowing the fishermen involved.
He therefore called for a return to bilateral discussions to “smooth things out”.
Pictured: Mr Rogoff said there was no direct contact between French fishermen and Jersey.
Many of the fisheries committee representatives directed their frustration at the European Commission, which they said must finally take a stand in the dispute.
Mr Romiti said the Commission’s position was “questionable” and urged it to make it clearer, arguing the Commission’s “credibility” depended on it.
“We want it to affirm its purported support to fishermen and to rescue the citizens that we are.
“For the past 10 months, we have been promised we will have the licences… The fishermen’s patience is running out, we have been tested for too long.”
Later on in the conference, Mr Romiti said that in meetings with Brussels he had asked the vice president of the Commission to “show his virility once and for all to the UK”.
Olivier Le Nézet, the President of the regional committees in Bretagne, said that under the TCA, there were obligations on both parties and that it was important for the EU to stand with fishermen and the Maritime Minister Annick Girardin, who he said had done “remarkable work”.
“The agreement needs to be respected to the letter and the retaliatory measures must be put in place as soon as possible.”
Mr Rogoff said over the past 11 months the issue has been stalling and the European Commission has been silent.
“Europe needs to regain fishermen’s trust by setting the pace… It’s not up to the UK to dictate what’s happening… Europe needs to show its virility and defend European citizens…
“Europe needs to blow the final whistle and end all the quibbling… We can’t accept anything and everything.”
Pictured: Mr Le Prêtre said the UK knew some fishermen wouldn't be able to meet the requirements he said were added after the deal was signed.
Olivier Le Prêtre, who presides over the regional committees in Hauts de France and is himself a fisherman, said that Europe had “moved a comma” by giving the UK a 10 December deadline to resolve the issue.
“I regret the government has been forced to step up to the plate because the EU didn’t negotiate Brexit properly.”
Mr Le Prêtre suggested Boris Johsnon had signed the Brexit agreement and added conditions afterwards, knowing that French fishermen would not be able to meet the requirements.
He said that proving activity in the Channel between 2012 and 2016 was impossible for some boats as vessel trackers had only been introduced in 2012 and only for the 18 to 25m long boats.
“They knew we couldn’t prove it," he said.
Questioned about what future actions, if any, the committees might take beyond today's blockades, Mr Romiti said anything could happen.
“We are not excluding a single thing, neither putting the pressure up, nor blocking zones that aren’t affected by Brexit. The ball is in the court of Europe and the UK.”
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