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WATCH: Calls for Jersey to retaliate as G20 talks fail to calm fishing row

WATCH: Calls for Jersey to retaliate as G20 talks fail to calm fishing row

Monday 01 November 2021

WATCH: Calls for Jersey to retaliate as G20 talks fail to calm fishing row

Monday 01 November 2021


Local fishermen are urging Jersey’s Government to start preparing its own retaliatory measures against France, as G20 discussions between Macron and Johnson left little hope of a resolution to the licence row by tomorrow.

France has said it will start imposing progressive retaliatory measures from Tuesday if it doesn’t get all the fishing licences it wants, including heightened checks across six ports and a block on landing catch for Jersey and UK fishing vessels, and tariffs on electricity supplied to Jersey.

Based on evidence of previous fishing activity received, Jersey has so far given 162 boats permission to fish in its territorial waters – 75% of the total licences requested by France, and 70% more than announced in September

While the island attempted to smooth the licence-granting process by offering to accept logbooks, rather than GPS and technical data, the Government said last week that it still didn’t have enough evidence for 55 boats – all of which were banned from fishing around Jersey from yesterday.

Jersey maintains, however, that “the door remains open for further data to be submitted” – though it’s understood that many of the refused vessels are Breton boats that rarely, if at all, took the opportunity to fish around Jersey when they still had the right to do so under the old Bay of Granville agreement.

Calls for Jersey to retaliate

If France goes ahead with its “unacceptable” sanctions from tomorrow, the Jersey Fishermens’ Association (JFA) says it wants to see the island respond in kind by closing off its whelk and scallop fisheries, and banning dredging and trawling in island waters “with immediate effect for a period of six weeks”.

donthompson.jpg 

Pictured: Don Thompson, President of the Jersey Fishermens’ Association, wants “decisive” action from Jersey’s Government.

As a “last resort”, the JFA say the Government should consider the “revocation of all licences”.

JFA President Don Thompson – who met with Ministers on Friday – said: “…We now have a situation where our local fleet are tied up as Jersey's fish exporters are prevented from accessing European markets and our fishermen are unable to land into France.

“At the same time, we watch as French vessels continue to fish with licenses valued at £14m (issued free of charge by Jersey) in Jersey waters, on Jersey's fish stocks and land back into France without constraint. 

“…Jersey's government must take a firmer stance in order to avoid ongoing hostility, risk to our electricity supply, food security, our marine environment and our economy.”

Fishing standoff at the G20

Action from France tomorrow seems very likely after both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Emmanuel Macron dug their heels over the fishing row.

After a private word on the matter during a climate-focused G20 summit in Rome, President Macron said he wanted “de-escalation” and had presented a proposal to achieve this to Mr Johnson.

Video: President Macron answered questions about the fishing row during a G20 press conference. 

He continued: "...We’re talking about the livelihoods of men and women who depend on their work, who spend days and nights at sea to feed their families. Suddenly, because the agreement isn’t respected, they’re told, ‘You can’t live from your work, it’s finished.’

"We have to be serious. I don’t want to increase tensions, but we must be serious. We’ve been working at this for 10 months. Some licences have been given, that’s great. A lot haven’t, for reasons we still can’t understand."

Concluding, he said the “ball is in Britain’s court”, noting that: “If the British don’t budge, the 2 November measures will have to be put in place.”

President Macron’s comments came after a leaked letter from French Prime Minister Jean Castex to European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen about the fishing crisis showed how he had said it is “vital to make clear… that there are more downsides to leaving the European Union to remaining in it.”

Responding in a G20 press conference, Mr Johnson said his position on fish was “unchanged” and that he was “puzzled” by M. Castex’s letter.

"I just have to say to everybody I don't believe that that is compatible either with the spirit or the letter of the Withdrawal Agreement or the Trade and Cooperation agreement, and that's probably all I'll say about that one," he added.

A Number 10 spokesperson told reporters in Rome after: “It will be for the French to decide where they want to step away from threats they’ve made in recent days about breaching the Brexit agreement.”

“We’ll see where we are on 2 November,” an Elysée official later said, “We’re not there yet. One thing at a time.”

Brexit arbitration process on the horizon?

A decision to block ports to fishers from Jersey – which had no say in the Brexit vote – will shut off their main source of revenue, as most land their catch in France due to a lack of on-island commercial processing facilities.

Video: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had a “frank” discussion with President Macron on fishing.

Seeking to fend of threats of reprisals, Jersey’s Government has for months emphasised that any licence refusals have been on purely technical grounds – not political ones.

That message was repeated by UK Brexit Minister Lord Frost, who tweeted on Saturday: “We have been in talks with the EU Commission for weeks on fisheries licensing… We do so in good faith & are fully delivering on our TCA obligation - to license vessels which can prove they have actually fished previously in our 6-12nm limit.” 

Lord Frost added that, as he had stated to European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic on Friday, allowing France to follow through on its threats from Tuesday “would put the EU in breach of its obligations under our trade agreement.”

He said the UK was therefore considering launching dispute settlement proceedings set out under Article 738 of the Brexit deal. 

The post was dismissed as “spin” by France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune on his own Twitter page.

“After 10 months, when such a significant amount of licences, targeting one country, is missing, it’s not a technical issue, it’s a political choice and a breach of the TCA. A friend, ally and responsible partner should stand by its world and comply with legal commitments. 

“This is why France asks for action at the EU level, within the framework of the TCA, and stands ready to implement proportionate and reversible measures from November 2nd, as we have announced repeatedly since last April. These measures are fully in line with the TCA.”

This morning, Foreign Affairs Secretary Liz Truss said that, if the French do not back down within 48 hours, the UK Government will use “the mechanisms of our trade agreement with the EU to take action” - something she said “could lead to taking direct action in trade”.

Silence from the European Commission

The European Commission has so far steered clear of publicly backing either side on the matter of sanctions.

When the threats to Jersey were announced last week, the Commission resisted questions from Express over whether France had approached it in advance about the proposed sanctions and whether or not it endorsed them.

A spokesperson commented: “The top priority for the Commission is to resolve the licensing issue as soon as possible, and that’s what we have been working on in the past weeks and months, and will continue to do so.

“We will carefully assess specific actions.” 

Express contacted Jersey’s Government yesterday to ask for its response to the latest updates on the fishing row, including the JFA’s calls.

In a joint statement issued this morning, the Environment and External Relations Ministers did not address these points but reiterated that Jersey has issued 49 temporary licences to French boats - all of which have until 31 January 2022 "to provide further data which is necessary to secure a permanent licence under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement."

They added: "Jersey remains open to receiving further data for vessels that currently have no licence, and new applications can be submitted at any time. 

"We will continue to work closely with French authorities, the UK and the EU Commission – in accordance with the TCA – to ensure that vessels which are entitled to a licence are able to receive one and continue fishing in Jersey’s territorial waters in accordance with their historic track record."

Follow Express for updates...

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Comments

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Posted by Guy de Faye on
Following a series of appeasement measures - kicking the "granting of licences can" down the beach via amnesties - it is difficult to see Jersey's political leadership taking a hard line with the French government.
In any event, the UK commandeered decision making over Jersey's territorial waters, leaving the Island with marginal influence over the future of a key traditional industry.

I have offered all sorts of suggestions for compensatory and retaliatory measures to Jersey ministers and States Members, many published in B'Express comments, with little response.
So resolving matters will be down to the actions of the people of Jersey, who are not obliged to be polite to French fishery representatives or Paris politicians.

Public action is best directed at boycotting French merchandise - apples, beers, cheese, cider, dairy products, kitchen equipment, machinery, meat, vegetables, vehicles, wine etc - the lot.
Such action should be conducted at least until the French General Elections have been held, or France moderates its antagonistic approach. The value of consumer spending on French goods in Jersey is substantial and a boycott is perfectly legal and cannot be disrupted by government intervention.

The idea of banning or restricting certain types of fishing and conservation/ study locations is a good one, BUT Jersey does not have sufficient capacity to carry out effective policing of over one hundred and sixty French boats spread across our fishing grounds.
That shortfall must be addressed immediately, as we can expect regular poaching activities on an ongoing basis. The technology is readily available and would be a beneficial long term investment.
Posted by Martin on
It is fortunate that the UK HAS now got properly involved, as I am sure that if Jersey stood alone the furious French would defy us in perpetuity - however the French now have an adversary in the UK which will test their historically fatiguing metal & hopefully will see that their demands are totally unfair & they would certainly not agree to such flexibility?

I do wonder about families in the UK AND Jersey who have relatives lying in rows from the Great war of 1914-18 and Le Deuxieme Guerre Mondial who have lost SO much & then see what can only be a greedy & unacceptable claim on "our" waters!
Posted by David Moon on
Jersey should an edging and trawlinginits waters permanently I view of the damage this does to the seabed. If the fish caught by the Jersey fishermen cannot be exported to France why is there more fish in Jersey supermarkets.
Posted by Roy Dean on
The obvious question that crossed my mind was the lack of commercial processing facilities in Jersey...
It is always easy to let someone else do the work
Jersey is..was...and hopefully be an independant country but appears tied to the apron strings of France
Posted by Scott Mills on
Oi Policticians leave those fish alone...da da da da...all we need is another brick on the boat...Classic Floyd
Posted by Keith Marsh on
The JFA, are correct, in saying that the Government should consider the “revocation of all licences" given FREELY to French boats. ~ but how can we police such an amount of water, will the UK provide sufficient Fishing Protection vessels ?
Other than that, Guy is right, we must boycott ALL French goods, it will not be nice or easy, but we cannot allow a few French Bullies who are electioneering.
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