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“I want the licences back!”

“I want the licences back!”

Thursday 30 September 2021

“I want the licences back!”

Thursday 30 September 2021


France is once again "en colère" over the right of its fishermen to fish in Jersey’s waters and the threat of retaliatory measures has been raised again - but further protests are on hold for now.

At a national level – and also in Brittany, whose fishermen did not receive many licences – there has been an angry response, and warnings of a potential refusal to land Jersey produce in France or consume it.

But the reaction from Normandy, which did receive the vast majority of the licences they requested, appears to be more muted.

There appear no immediate plans to storm St. Helier Harbour again, as French boats did in May.

However, a threat made in May by France’s Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, to cut off Jersey electricity supply has been raised again, as it was earlier this month when a protest was held where one of the cables lands on the Norman coast. 

Jersey's announcement

Yesterday, Jersey announced that it would issue 64 full permits to French boats, based on evidence supplied of past fishing activity, on top of the 47 that it issued to larger boats earlier in the year.

It would also issue 31 temporary licences, which will become full licences if extra information is provided by the end of January.

In total, 142 French boats could receive a licence, with a further 75 applications refused because, Jersey say, there was no past history of these vessels fishing in the Island’s territorial waters between 2017 and 2020, as set out in the UK’s trade deal with the EU, which defines the post-Brexit arrangements.

A 15-day 'ultimatum'

Yesterday, Mme Girardin issued a 15-day 'ultimatum', after which point retaliatory measures could be announced.

The Jersey issue, however, has been swept up in wider French criticism of the UK, which announced the result of its own licence-issuing exercise on Tuesday. Like Jersey, the UK issued fewer licences that the French requested.

“I want the licenses back!” Mme Girardin said in English yesterday, adding in French: “The British want to divide us with this decision, which comes after too long months of discussions.

“We have provided all the necessary information; we have transmitted all the requested data. 

“This new kick from the British is a demonstration of their unwillingness to respect their commitments. I now call on European solidarity to move towards a balance in our relations with our British neighbours."

You stop us fishing... We stop buying your fish

Other French politicians, however, have specifically mentioned taking measures against Jersey.

Pierre Karleskind, oceanographer, MEP and President of the European Parliament’s Fishing Committee, said: “[The European Commission] have to tell the British Government that 'enough is enough'."

Pictured: A Tweet by MEP Pierre Karleskind calling on Jersey and French regional authorities to be able to talk directly.

He added: “If tomorrow, the fishermen are not allowed to go fishing there, we can consider retaliatory measures on the importation of fish products caught by the fishermen of Jersey

“The Jersey people can say to themselves, ‘Great, we will recover our waters' - except that it is we who consume their fish. These retaliatory measures would be: ‘We stop buying your fish.'

“It could also be: ‘We stop buying other products’ and the last step is to call into question the entire agreement with Jersey, including the supply of electricity. 

“Minister Girardin threatened to cut the power in Jersey a few months ago and this threat is not completely in the air.”

"It's going to end badly"

Breton fishermen – who failed to be issued many licences, with Jersey saying that the region did not provide enough evidence of past activity – were equally bellicose.

Their representative committee issued a statement saying: “On Wednesday afternoon, French fishing professional organisations gave a mandate to the Minister of the Sea to refuse the British licence offer. Annick Girardin has given herself two weeks to calibrate the response with retaliatory measures.

“This is an ultimatum joined by the Breton Fisheries Committees. The National Fisheries Committee has meanwhile warned that it will coordinate actions on the ground if the situation does not develop favourably.”

The committee’s president, Olivier Le Nézet, was reported to have said: “It’s going to end badly”. 

He said he is ready to flex his muscles “since this is all the English understand”, although he added that he was tired of the idea of going to war with Jersey "every four or five months".

"I am driven by anger"

External Relations Minister Ian Gorst met with President of Brittany, Loîg Chennais-Girard, virtually on Wednesday morning. 

Afterwards, Senator Gorst said: “The President expressed concerns on behalf of Breton fishermen but committed to work with us to ensure that all relevant evidence and data is submitted so that vessels which qualify can receive a licence. I re-stated Jersey’s ongoing commitment to work with all relevant parties within the agreement to that end.” 

Pictured: The President of Brittany has called the situation "unacceptable".

M. Chennais-Girard Tweeted yesterday: “I am driven by anger; the situation is unacceptable.

"I call on the European Union to take all possible retaliatory measures to allow this decision [on licensing] to be reviewed. Together, fishermen, authorities, Europe, we must unite to bring the UK back to reason. 

“Fishing in British waters and the Channel Islands is vital for some of our Breton fishermen, and access to our Breton ports is just as important for the fishermen of Jersey.”

"Everyone must make an effort"

The situation in Normandy, which received 72 of the 75 licences it requested after submitting enough information to Jersey, is more complex.

Pictured: French MEP Pierre Karleskind, who presides over the European Parliament's fishing committee, suggests the French should stop buying Jersey fish products in retaliation.

The president of its fishing committee, Dimitri Rogoff, told newspaper Ouest-France that Jersey’s announcement was not a dramatic one for his members. 

He added that there were no plans to repeat May’s protest, when around 75 boats – the most of them from Normandy – sailed to St. Helier.

However, M. Rogoff said that the regional fisheries committee on which he sits backed the position of Mme Girardin and other regions. 

Normandy President Hervé Morin, who attended the Channel Islands-Normandy summit in Jersey last Friday, is reported to have said yesterday: “Everyone must make an effort: France, by communicating the requested data, and the Channel Islands, by relaxing the rules.”

READ MORE...

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