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Jersey not ruling out French legal action over fishing licences

Jersey not ruling out French legal action over fishing licences

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Jersey not ruling out French legal action over fishing licences

Tuesday 22 February 2022


Although there appears to be a period of calm in the stormy year-long fishing dispute, the island is not ruling out the French taking further action over licences.

Jersey has issued 130 licences to French boats since the island regained full control over its territorial waters on 1 January last year.

In September, it issued temporary permits to 31 Norman and Breton boats, giving them until the end of last month to provide sufficient evidence of past fishing activity, which would meet the criteria set out in the UK-EU trade deal agreed at the end of 2020, and allowing them to receive a permanent licence.

Although some boats did meet the standard, 33 temporary licences have now expired, and the Government has said that it now intends to move on to the next phase of the process: attaching conditions to those 130 licences already issued

Speaking to Scrutiny recently, External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said that the future was still uncertain.

“As we sit here, there are no grounds or evidence to issue further licences; none have been provided,” he said.

Girardin Gorst Le Fondre Gorst.jpg

Pictured: Jersey politicians held a meeting with French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin last month.

“The grace period for those temporary licences has now expired and they are now not licensed. 

“Marine Resources officials are now in conversation with UK colleagues at Defra, and in due course with the EU and French, to move on to ‘nature and extent’ conditions placed on those 130 licences.”

He added: “I cannot say with any certainty whether the French may, in due course, seek to persuade the EU to trigger an arbitration mechanism to challenge our licensing decisions around those vessels that were not licensed. 

“That may happen.”

The French last publicly threatened legal action last month after Senator Gorst and Chief Minister John Le Fondré held a virtual meeting with French politicians.

Senator Gorst confirmed that Jersey’s position on ‘nature and extent’ would likely be based on conditions applied to French boats under the old Bay of Granville Agreement, which fell away when the UK left the EU.

He also said that discussions with the French on opening an inspection post in Granville, which would allow Jersey exporters to land their produce there rather than St Malo, had not progressed.

“The French view is that French fishers have asked for more licences than we have issued and they maintain their position that more licences should be issued,” he said. “And therefore they don’t feel able to make progress on these matters at this time, particularly the border inspection post.”

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