There is currently a blockade of 100 French fishing vessels blocking access to the port of St Helier in Jersey over fishing rights after the UK leaves the EU. The Royal Navy’s patrol vessels have been deployed after a row with France, with the country threatening to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply.
The issue has arisen now that the UK has left the EU removing us from the common fisheries policy. This also made the Bay of Granville agreement redundant which allowed a patter of rights for French boats up to three miles from the Channel Islands coast.
On Friday Jersey published a list of licenses that had been issued for 41 French boats longer than 12 metres who could prove that they had fished in the island’s waters for 10 days over a period of 12 months in the last three years. Smaller boats have an extended amnesty, but the issue arises as 17 larger boats have been unable to provide evidence that they have fished in Jersey waters.
Extra conditions to protect British marine life have been put into place, with dredgers only allowed to have 12 lines coming off them, and bream nesting areas out of bounds to allow scientific research. The EU and French government believe these conditions to be “null and void” and in breach of the trade agreement.
The French minister for maritime affairs, Annick Girardin highlighted that Jersey benefitted from three sub-cables from France which supplies energy to the island. She told the French National Assembly;
So as far as Jersey is concerned, I would remind you, for example of the transport of electricity by sub-marine cables. So we have the means, and, sorry it has come to this, we will do so if we have to.”
On 5 May, Boris Johnson deployed two naval ships with HMS Severn and HMS Tamar monitoring the situation. The French have also done the same with the Athos and Thémis traveling up the Seine to help support the French fishing boats.
The biggest events of the blockade have been when one French boat rammed a British fishing boat, and a member of the Jersey Militia re-enactment group fired a Musket from the walls of Elizabeth Castle.
While some might have been hoping for a Trafalgar no.2, it is very likely that both Governments will be sorting out an agreement soon!