Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reaffirmed his support for the island’s approach to the fishing row with France after meeting the Chief Minister, saying the threats made to the island were "unjustified".
The pair met this afternoon to discuss what were described as “matters of significant importance to the island, including international trade and the ongoing process of licensing French fishing vessels in Jersey waters.”
Jersey has been locked in a dispute with France over the number of licences granted to French vessels to fish in the island’s territorial waters after Brexit.
France has suggested the Brexit deal has been broken because not all boats that previously fished around Jersey have been granted a licence – but Jersey’s Government has always maintained that those who can provide sufficient evidence that they fished in local waters for at least 10 days in a three-year period will be given one.
The dispute resulted in France threatening to add tariffs to the island’s energy supply, which comes from France via undersea cables, and trade blockages across six ports.
The threats were put on ice to allow renewed negotiations to take place, including a meeting between Brexit Minister Lord David Frost and French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune in Paris. Last week, Jersey released three more licences.
After appearing at the National Service of Remembrance in London yesterday, Senator John Le Fondré and External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst met the Prime Minister and Lord Frost at Downing Street today.
An official UK Government statement released after the meeting said: "The Prime Minister said that France’s recent threats were unjustified and would have breached the TCA. He reiterated that the UK would continue to stand behind Jersey in the event that they were carried through, although he welcomed their deferral and said he hoped that they would be taken off the table permanently.
"Both sides agreed that they would continue to assess new evidence in support of the remaining licence applications and that technical discussions with the EU Commission and France would continue."
Boris Johnson commented afterwards: “The UK/Jersey relationship remains strong and we agreed to continue working closely together on issues that affect us both.
“We support Jersey’s approach on fishing licences which has been reasonable and fully in line with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement."
Senator Le Fondré said: “I would like to thank the Prime Minister for giving us his valuable time to discuss these important matters, and for his continued commitment to ensure that the views of our island are considered in ongoing discussions with the EU and France.”
Senator Gorst added: “As a proud member of the British family, it is crucial that we continue to work closely with the UK Government to proactively manage matters of international trade and fisheries."
Very pleased to have the opportunity to meet with @BorisJohnson and @DavidGHFrost alongside @Ian_Gorst to discuss the close relationship between Jersey and the UK as well as areas of shared interest including international trade pic.twitter.com/IEC31f5t65— John Le Fondre (@John_Le_Fondre) November 15, 2021
He added: “I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his time and reassurance that Jersey’s views are being heard and considered as the UK manages the practicalities of the new UK-EU trading relationship.”
As of Friday, Jersey had now issued 116 permanent fishing licences to French vessels, reducing the number of temporary licences – which run out at the end of January - by three to 46.
55 licence applications were rejected.
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