France has threatened to cut off electricity supplies to Jersey in retaliation at ‘revolting’ post Brexit rules restricting access to British waters.
Paris and London have clashed over fishing in recent weeks, as French fishermen say they are being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licences.
Last Friday The British government authorised 41 trawlers with Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) technology – which allows ships to be located – to fish in waters off Jersey.
But the list was accompanied by new demands ‘which were not arranged or discussed (with France).
And as a result Maritime Minister Annick Girardin told the French Government they are prepared to use ‘retaliation measures,’ mentioning consequences involving the underwater cables supplying electricity from France to the largest Channel Island.
More than a hundred French fishermen blocked trucks carrying fish from the UK last month. Last night one of their leaders threatened similar action over Jersey restrictions
France could cut off its electricity supply to Jersey as restrictions over fishing continue to cause disagreements
She said: ‘We are ready to use these retaliation measures.
‘I am sorry it has come to this [but] we will do so if we have to.’
She added she was ‘revolted, that’s the word’ when she discovered new access conditions had been decided ‘unilaterally’ on the British side.
French Seas Minister Annick Girardin said she was ‘revolted’ by the new demands which she says were not discussed with France
A £40million undersea electricity cable was laid between Jersey and France in 2016.
Known as Normandie 1, the 16.7-mile cable took over a week to install and also provides power to Guernsey.
The French fisheries ministry asserts that London has effectively made new zoning rules for the waters – ‘where the ships can go and cannot go’, as well as the number of days the fishermen can spend at sea and with which machinery.
Paris claims London has made new demands while imposing the VMS gear ‘which were not arranged or discussed, and which we were not notified about.’
Dimitri Rogoff, president of the regional fishing committee of Normandy in northern France, said that if French fishermen continued to be blocked from the waters off Jersey, there should be reprisal measures.
‘Fishermen from Jersey should not be able to land at Granville,’ he said, referring to the French port nearest the island.
Fishing boats are seen at a port in France. Dimitri Rogoff, president of the regional fishing committee of Normandy in northern France, said that if French fishermen continued to be blocked from the waters off Jersey, there should be reprisal measures.
French fishermen last month began a protest movement, blockading trucks bringing fish from Britain to France, over complaints that few of their vessels have obtained licences to operate in British waters.
France and Britain have increasingly clashed over fishing in recent weeks, with French fishermen saying they are being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licences.
The French fisheries ministry said Britain had introduced ‘new technical measures’ relating to licences for fishing off the Channel Islands which had not been properly declared to the European Union under the terms of the Brexit deal.
‘We consider that if the new demands for sea zoning or fishing equipment are integrated into the licences – when the European Commission has not been notified – they are null and void,’ the ministry told AFP.
The ministry said it was adhering ‘strictly to the deal’ agreed on fishing under the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union on January 1.
‘If the United Kingdom wants to introduce new measures, it must notify the European Commission which in turn notifies us – that allows for us to engage in a dialogue,’ the ministry said.
‘These new technical measures are not applicable to our fishermen as things stand.’
French fishermen block lorries carrying UK-landed fish at a protest at the fishing port in Boulogne-sur-Mer on April 23
Fishing proved one of the most fraught issues in the frantic negotiations leading up to Britain’s departure from the EU, with London tightly guarding control over its waters as a symbol of its sovereignty.
France said it had voiced its displeasure at the surprise measures with the European Commission.
Commission spokeswoman Vivian Loonela said the EU was engaged in ‘intense joint work’ with the British government to resolve the issue.
‘Any condition should be notified in a timely way to allow the other party sufficient time to comment or adapt,’ she said of the new British requirements.
‘In addition, any such conditions cannot be discriminatory towards our fishermen.’