UK sends Royal Navy to Jersey after French blockade threat

France has accused UK of using new rules to restrict French fishing around Jersey Island in breach of Brexit agreement

Karim El-Bar   | 06.05.2021
UK sends Royal Navy to Jersey after French blockade threat ( Royal British Navy / Handout - Anadolu Agency )


Britain is sending two Royal Navy ships to Jersey following threats of a French blockade of the island’s main port, Downing Street said Wednesday. 

A Downing Street spokesman said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with the Chief Minister of Jersey, Senator John Le Fondre, about the potential blockade.

“The prime minister and chief minister stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions and for dialogue between Jersey and France on fishing access,” the spokesman was quoted by local media as saying.

“The prime minister underlined his unwavering support for Jersey. He said that any blockade would be completely unjustified. As a precautionary measure, the UK will be sending two Offshore Patrol Vessels to monitor the situation.

“They agreed the UK and Jersey governments would continue to work closely on this issue,” he added.

According to the Jersey Evening Post, French fishermen threatened to blockade Jersey’s main port, Saint Helier, and stop supplies from entering the island.

The local outlet also reported that French officials said they will close their offices in the Channel Islands and stop the import of Jersey products into France.

Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands.

The Jersey Evening Post also reported that Jersey’s External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said the French reaction was “extremely disappointing” and “disproportionate.”

He added that he hoped it could be resolved through dialogue.

The Guardian quoted Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, as saying: “It was inevitable that the French would kick off.”

“But the reaction we’re seeing from France is almost like something you would see from Iran or Russia. They’re not just saying they can cut off the electricity supply, French fishermen are saying that they’re coming tomorrow [Thursday] to blockade the harbor in time to stop the ferries from coming in so there’ll be no food supply and no fuel coming into the island either. So it comes pretty close to an act of war, this.”

Earlier in the day, French Maritime Affairs Minister Annick Girardin said they could cut off the electricity supply to Jersey after the UK introduced new conditions in a fishing agreement over access to its waters.

France believes these new rules will restrict their fishing rights around Jersey and that this breaches the Brexit agreement.

“These conditions of access were decided unilaterally and without explanation. It is completely unacceptable," Girardin told the French National Assembly.

Last week, the UK announced new requirements to fish in waters around Jersey Island. It published a list of 41 fishing vessels equipped with Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) which would be authorized fishing rights from May 1.

“We are alongside the fishermen dependent on access to UK waters. Our neighbors impose criteria that do not belong to the post-Brexit agreement. The law is formal, conventions must be respected. We will ensure that the agreement signed at the end of 2020 is,” she said on Twitter.

The Channel Islands Electricity Grid is dependent on the transmission of electricity by submarine cable from France. Girardin said it is regretful that they have arrived at this point, but France has the means as part of the agreement and it is ready to use the retaliatory measures.

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