'Misunderstanding' in Jersey-France fishing row led to power threat


The Channel island of Jersey has become the unlikely centre of the wider row over access to fishing waters between the United Kingdom and France, with the government in Paris on Tuesday threatening that electricity supply to the island could be stopped.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was an "urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions and for dialogue between Jersey and France on fishing access".

"Following enquiries from our customers regarding the French fishing dispute, JE can reassure customers that in the unlikely event electricity supplies from France are disrupted, La Collette Power Station and Queens' Road has capacity to supply Jersey's electricity requirements", the utility said in a statement.

French maritime minister Annick Girardin warned on Tuesday that France was ready to take "retaliatory measures" after it accused Jersey of stalling in issuing licenses to French boats under the terms of the UK's post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. So as far as Jersey is concerned, I would remind you, for example, of the transport of electricity via submarine cables.

Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands in the English Channel and, while geographically closer to France, is a British Crown Dependency.

The external affairs minister for Jersey, Sen.

The government argued the permits must "correspond to the previous activity a vessel has carried out in Jersey waters" under the terms of the TCA and its new system was "in line with the data submitted by the French and European Union authorities".

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"It is not the first threat that France has made", Gorst stressed, pointing out that hold-up was simply down to fishermen failing to provide information on their historical catches in the waters.

The system - introduced by the Government of Jersey under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) - requires French boats to show they have a history of fishing in Jersey's waters.

"To threaten Jersey like this is clearly unacceptable and disproportionate", a British government spokesman said, adding: "We trust the French will use the mechanisms of our new treaty to solve problems."

"It is important that we right away condemn this move, I did so with the (European) Commission, condemning the breach of the Brexit agreement", Girardin said, warning the Jersey move "would set a unsafe precedent for access elsewhere". "It would seem disproportionate to cut off electricity for the sake of needing to provide extra details so that we can refine the licenses".

However, France is saying that the authorisation came with new demands, "which were not arranged or discussed, and which we were not notified about".

Paris and London have increasingly 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.

"I do think a solution can be found".