Jersey’s row with France over the new fishing permit system escalated further this afternoon as the French Maritime Minister threatened “retaliatory measures” – including potentially pulling the plug on the island’s electricity supply.
Annick Girardin (pictured top) told the French Parliament this afternoon that she was “disgusted” to learn that Jersey’s new permit system included conditions on French vessels, including restrictions on the number of days per year they can fish in Jersey’s waters and the zones they can visit.
She said these were that were apparently added “unilaterally” and “without explanation” – despite a previous “50 years of good relations” between the island and France.
The comments came less than 24 hours after the Normandy and Manche region officially severed ties with the island by closing its Jersey office of more than 25 years, which also houses the Honorary French Consulate.
Jersey’s Government has made no comment on the matter since Express first reported on the fall-out this morning.
However, Ouest France has reported that the Manche region’s Vice President, Jean-Marc Julienne was having a crisis meeting with Jersey’s Chief Minister this afternoon.
Droit de pêche dans les eaux britanniques | @BertrandSorre (LaREM) dénonce les "pratiques abusives" du Royaume-Uni et de Jersey. Il demande "une action forte" du Gvt.#DirectAN #QAG pic.twitter.com/u4szmpVLcW— Assemblée nationale (@AssembleeNat) May 4, 2021
The matter is also being considered by the European Commission, following an appeal from the French Government. Commission spokesperson Vivian Loonela said that there was “intense joint work” ongoing with the British Government.
Appearing to support the French argument that the rules accompanying the new permit system had been unexpected, she added: “Any condition should be notified in a timely way to allow the other party sufficient time to comment or adapt.
“…In addition, any such conditions cannot be discriminatory towards our fishermen.”
Some French fishermen are reportedly so angry at the new system that they are prepared to blockade the island.
Regional fishing associations have been calling for strong economic sanctions on Jersey for the conditions, which they say were added in “violation” of the post-Brexit trade agreement.
Pictured: Neither Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré nor External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst has commented on the diplomatic crisis.
They have called for Jersey fishermen to be banned from landing their catch in Granville – something supported by the mayor - and are calling on French businesses not to buy any Jersey goods.
Responding to a question on the matter from Manche representative Bertrand Sorre in the Assemblée Nationale this afternoon, French Fishing Minister Annick Girard suggested that even more severe sanctions could be on the way if a solution is not found.
“In the [Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement signed in December], there are retaliatory measures… and we are ready to use them,” she said.
“Europe, France have the means – it’s written in the agreement. Concerning Jersey, for example, there’s the transmission of electricity by under-sea cable. And so, we have the means - and I am sorry if it comes to this, but we will if we have to.
“[Secretary of State for European Affairs] Clément Beaune, on behalf of the government, we are stepping up, we will not give up: the agreement, only the agreement of last December."
Express contacted Jersey Electricity to ask what safeguards there are for the island’s energy supply in light of the threats, but the company declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the Jersey's Government.
Ms Girardin later tweeted: "We stand alongside our fishermen, [who are] dependent on accessing British.waters. Our neighbours are imposing criteria that do not belong to the post-Brexit agreement. The law is formal, conventions must be respected. We will ensure that the deal signed at the end of 2020 is."
Nous sommes aux côtés des pêcheurs dépendant d'un accès aux eaux britanniques. Nos voisins imposent des critères n'appartenant pas à l'accord post-#Brexit. Le droit est formel, les conventions doivent être respectées. Nous veillerons à ce que l'accord signé fin 2020 le soit. pic.twitter.com/vVoEW6duO3— Annick Girardin (@AnnickGirardin) May 4, 2021
French MEP and Chair of the Fisheries Committee Pierre Karleskind commented: "From the Brussels side, [MEP and fellow Fisheries Committee member Stéphanie Yon-Courtin], [member of the French National Assembly Bertrand Sorre] and I have challenged [EU Commission VP for Interinstitutional Relations Maroš Šefčovič] on this matter.
"We mustn't in any way accept the conditions imposed on our fishermen by the British."
Last Saturday (1 May) marked the first time ever that Jersey took full control over the management of its seas.
41 vessels over 12m were issued a permit to fish on Friday, while negotiations are ongoing in relation to obtaining permits for an additional 14 additional vessels. From 1 July, smaller French boats under 12m will also have to hold a licence.
Between 2004 and 31 December last year, the management of Jersey’s waters between three and 12 miles was shared between France and the island under the Bay of Granville Agreement, which was signed by France and the UK in 2000.
Before that, Jersey only had control out to three miles and around the Ecréhous and Minquiers reefs. The space in between was classed as “common sea” not belonging to anyone.
The change has come about because of Brexit, with the UK and Jersey becoming a ‘third country’ in the eyes of the EU. A trade deal between the two nations was signed at the end of December, which was finally ratified by the EU last Tuesday.
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Pictured top: French Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin. (Ministère de l'Intérieur/DICOM/Y/MALENFER/Wikipedia)
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