Jersey's official tie with the Normandy and La Manche region will remain severed until the issues around the fishing licences issued by Jersey are resolved, with a senior French figure claiming: “We won’t budge because we are certain we are within our rights."
Chair Jean-Marc Julienne said he wanted to reopen the Maison de la Normandie et de la Manche, which also houses the Honorary French Consulate, as soon as possible but was not able to give a date as to when that will happen.
His comments came just hours before the French formally closed the ports of Carteret, Dielette and Granville to Jersey fishermen - something Jersey claiming was a breach of the UK-EU Brexit deal.
The closure of the Maison de la Normandie was announced in a joint statement issued last Monday night with the President of the Normandy Region Hervé Morin and the President of La Manche Council Marc Lefèvre, as a way of demonstrating their “incomprehension and discontent” at the new permit system.
Pictured: Assistant Minister Gregory Guida (on the Norman Le Brocq) spoke to French officials on the Normandy Trader on Thursday.
It came after the French officials became aware that Jersey was imposing, “against expectations,” a number of what they termed “inexplicable conditions:" a limit on the number of days for fishing (seven to 170 depending on the boat), restrictions on types of fishing vessels and the closure of certain areas, when Jersey published a list of the 41 vessels that had received their licences last Friday.
Deputy Guida said the talks had been friendly with “no animosity whatsoever”.
“Today’s demonstration was an understandable show of intent and solidarity from a large part of the Bay of Granville fleet,” he said.
“They had perfectly legitimate grievances and they simply wanted someone to solve them.”
Following the talks, it was decided to re-establish a liaison committee with French and Jersey fishermen, and their administrations, to allow ongoing discussions, as was possible under the old Bay of Granville Agreement.
“I wouldn’t say the issue is over but we have a new level of understanding and the important thing is that the French fishermen now have our number and can talk to us directly,” he said.
Pictured: Mr Julienne chairs the Maison de Normandie and La Manche and is is a Department Advisor for the district of Granville district.
Mr Julienne, who is a Department Advisor for the district of Granville district, which is the largest port on the west coast, rejected Deputy Guida’s suggestion that the issue was down to “communication problems”.
“Saying that is just deflecting the blame onto others,” he told Express. “What I want to know is how many civil servants in Jersey are dealing with this? If Jersey’s Government want to show their clear concern in the issue, they need to put the necessary practical resources into it so that a solution can be found in the next few days, because if there are only two civil servants checking this, it might take a while.
“I am convinced that if the list is given, it won’t be too hard… There are people who know the boats who come in Jersey waters…we have maps, there are systems that can tell you where a boat is to the square centimetre so don’t tell me Jersey doesn’t have the means, otherwise they will need to get some money, or not even as it’s free. I am exaggerating a bit, but I am really infuriated that we can’t find solutions when they are there.
“Obviously, it does take time, but I do feel right now that both the European Commission and the countries want this to be resolved. If everyone genuinely wants to resolve the issue, I don’t see why it can’t be done quickly.”
Pictured: “We want to find a long-term solution to this issue that is polluting our relationship," Mr Julienne said.
Mr Julienne explained that French fishermen want the licences for the boats over and under 12 metres to be dealt with in the same way. While the former have Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) to show their location, the French official says phone data can be used for the latter.
“We want to find a long-term solution to this issue that is polluting our relationship, I personally don’t want the Franco-British relationships to be permanently tarnished,” he said.
“I want our relationship to endure and improve again, I want us to do more things together, but we need to give ourselves the means for that, and that includes the issue of the 12 meter boats, under and over, if we can’t find a permanent solution to this, we won’t be able to move on.
“It’s not that hard, in the era of technology and mobile telephones, on the basis of healthy and mutually good relationships. It would be unbelievable to say we can’t deal with the licences for the under 12 metres at the same times as the ones for the over 12 metres.”
Pictured: The President of La Manche Council Marc Lefèvre speaking to the External Relations Minister on Wednesday.
Turning to when the Maison de la Normandie et de la Manche might reopen, Mr Julienne said he wanted it to be as soon as possible but said it was closed until further notice.
“It is useful to French people who want to come to Jersey, who want to come and present their produce, who want to do a twinning. All the cultural, sporting, economic and obviously, we see that now, political actions are useful and the Maison de la Normandie et de la Manche is very helpful in that,” he said.
“I can’t give a date. You need to remember even if it’s just an anecdotal that it serves as the office for the honorary consul."
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mr Lefèvre said the topic could only be discussed again once the current issues had been resolved, despite calls from External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst for the Maison to reopen.
On Twitter, Senator Gorst characterised the discussions as "good", while Mr Lefèvre snapped back that he felt the discussions had only highlighted that Jersey's relationship with France was "seriously damaged", that the island had broken the Brexit deal, and that he was now questioning the fishing arrangements with Jersey stretching back more than 100 years.
Cela a pour conséquence la remise en cause de droits historiques dans notre mer reconnue commune depuis 1839. #laManche— Marc Lefèvre (@MarcLefevreCD50) May 5, 2021
In the meantime, Mr Julienne said contact was still ongoing with Jersey with him and Mr Lefèvre standing their grounds. He rejected the view, he says some people in Jersey and the UK hold, that French people “show their muscles but do nothing in the end”.and we want to keep on working with the Channel Islands,” he said. “History is in favour of firmness.”
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