Royal Navy gunships patrol sea off Jersey as 100 French fishing boats threaten to blockade harbour

Emmanuel Macron has sent a military boat racing at full speed towards Jersey for a stand-off with the Royal Navy as 100 French fishing vessels blockade the harbour.

Athos was hurtling towards the British Crown dependency to confront HMS Severn and HMS Tamar – despite them being far superior in size and power – as they monitor the protest over post-Brexit fishing rights.

The British boats are armed with cannon and machine guns and are roaming the Channel after Paris warned yesterday it could cut off electricity to the island – which is largely supplied via an undersea cable.

It is understood Boris Johnson made the decision to deploy the patrol boats after intelligence revealed the 100 fishing boats would block all access to the port at Saint Helier.

Witnesses on the ground counted 100 small vessels on the choppy water this morning, with French fishermen setting off flares and hoisting banners calling for access to the waters.

Jersey fisherman Josh Dearing was astonished by the scenes on the sleepy island, describing the port this morning as ‘like an invasion’.

It comes after French maritime minister Annick Girardin yesterday accused the Channel Island of dragging its feet over issuing new licences to French fishing boats.

She said France was ready to take ‘retaliatory measures’ – suggesting it could cut its power, with 95 per cent of its electricity coming from France.

David Sellam, the head of the Normandy-Brittany sea authority, added he believes Jersey has been taken over by an ‘extremist fringe who want to reduce French fishing access and profit from Brexit’.

He said: ‘We’re ready for war. We can bring Jersey to its knees if necessary.’

The blockade evokes memories of the Cod Wars which took place in the North Atlantic during the 1970s, when at times the Royal Navy stopped Icelandic boats from interfering with British trawlers.

The row is the result of Jersey implementing new requirements under the terms of the UK-EU trade deal for boats to submit evidence of their past fishing activities in order to receive a licence to carry on operating in its waters.

A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour, Jersey, as French fishermen protest post Brexit changes to fishing in the area. The HMS Tamar is seen here behind a small fishing boat

A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour, Jersey, as French fishermen protest post Brexit changes to fishing in the area. The HMS Tamar is seen here behind a small fishing boat

A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour, Jersey, as French fishermen protest post Brexit changes to fishing in the area. The HMS Tamar is seen here behind a small fishing boat








Two Royal Navy gunships have started patrolling the coast off Jersey as 100 French fishing boats threaten to blockade the harbour of the British Crown dependency. Pictured: Jersey harbour this morning

Two Royal Navy gunships have started patrolling the coast off Jersey as 100 French fishing boats threaten to blockade the harbour of the British Crown dependency. Pictured: Jersey harbour this morning

Two Royal Navy gunships have started patrolling the coast off Jersey as 100 French fishing boats threaten to blockade the harbour of the British Crown dependency. Pictured: Jersey harbour this morning 

HMS Severn and HMS Tamar were sent from Portsmouth 'as a precaution' in a major ratcheting up of the row with France over post-Brexit fishing rights. Pictured: The French blockade attempt this morning

HMS Severn and HMS Tamar were sent from Portsmouth 'as a precaution' in a major ratcheting up of the row with France over post-Brexit fishing rights. Pictured: The French blockade attempt this morning

HMS Severn and HMS Tamar were sent from Portsmouth ‘as a precaution’ in a major ratcheting up of the row with France over post-Brexit fishing rights. Pictured: The French blockade attempt this morning 

French fishing vessels staging a protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights this morning

French fishing vessels staging a protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights this morning

French fishing vessels staging a protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights this morning 

The Royal Navy vessels loom out to sea in the Channel as the small French ships bob about on the water during the protest

The Royal Navy vessels loom out to sea in the Channel as the small French ships bob about on the water during the protest

The Royal Navy vessels loom out to sea in the Channel as the small French ships bob about on the water during the protest 

A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour, Jersey, as French fishermen protest post Brexit changes to fishing in the area

A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour, Jersey, as French fishermen protest post Brexit changes to fishing in the area

A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour, Jersey, as French fishermen protest post Brexit changes to fishing in the area

The ships float on the calmer waters in the mouth of the harbour as the Royal Navy eyeball them from further out to sea

The ships float on the calmer waters in the mouth of the harbour as the Royal Navy eyeball them from further out to sea

The ships float on the calmer waters in the mouth of the harbour as the Royal Navy eyeball them from further out to sea

Boris Johnson is seen running this morning ahead of casting his vote as the country goes to the polls at the local elections. He is also having to keep his eye on what is happening in Jersey as tensions mount over fishing rights

Boris Johnson is seen running this morning ahead of casting his vote as the country goes to the polls at the local elections. He is also having to keep his eye on what is happening in Jersey as tensions mount over fishing rights

Boris Johnson is seen running this morning ahead of casting his vote as the country goes to the polls at the local elections. He is also having to keep his eye on what is happening in Jersey as tensions mount over fishing rights

The Royal Navy’s HMS Severn is armed with a 20mm cannon and two general purpose machine guns

The HMS Tamar, which has arrived in Jersey this morning, has three general purpose machine guns on board

The HMS Tamar, which has arrived in Jersey this morning, has three general purpose machine guns on board

The HMS Tamar, which has arrived in Jersey this morning, has three general purpose machine guns on board

Post-Brexit rules that kicked in on Friday last week means French fishing vessels now need a licence to fish the waters around Jersey, which are issued by the island's government

Post-Brexit rules that kicked in on Friday last week means French fishing vessels now need a licence to fish the waters around Jersey, which are issued by the island's government

Post-Brexit rules that kicked in on Friday last week means French fishing vessels now need a licence to fish the waters around Jersey, which are issued by the island’s government

Maritime tracking websites this morning showed HMS Severn had arrived in Jersey ‘to conduct maritime security patrols’. It is an older Batch 1 patrol vessel equipped with 20mm cannons and 7.62mm machine guns.

HMS Tamar, a Batch 2 vessel with a 30mm MK44 Bushmaster cannon, has also arrived and was spotted looming over the tiny French vessels.

Around 100 French boats were in the harbour this morning, with some crews setting off flares during the so far peaceful protest.

The leader of the demonstration had asked the French boats to leave the harbour to let a freight ferry – the Commodore Goodwill – depart.

Jersey fisherman Josh Dearing described the scene at the port of St Helier on Thursday morning as ‘like an invasion’.

The 28-year-old said: ‘There were a few hand-held flares and smoke flares going off and apparently a few maybe bangers and stuff going off from the French.’

He said the French fleet was mostly made up of ‘big French dredgers and trawlers’ of about 12 metres or more.

He added: ‘It was quite a sight. It was impressive, I looked from the shore this morning and it was just like a sea of red lights and flares already going off at sea. It was like an invasion.’

He said there had been rumblings about a planned protest a few days ago but he had not been sure if it was ‘serious or empty threats’.

He added: ‘The French being the French, they don’t mess around. They can blockade their own harbours – they wouldn’t think twice about coming and doing it to us.’

A message is written on a banner and hung from a fishing vessel in St Helier harbour in Jersey on Thursday morning amid the protest

A message is written on a banner and hung from a fishing vessel in St Helier harbour in Jersey on Thursday morning amid the protest

A message is written on a banner and hung from a fishing vessel in St Helier harbour in Jersey on Thursday morning amid the protest

French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier. They have raised french flags and protest banners across their small boats

French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier. They have raised french flags and protest banners across their small boats

French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier. They have raised french flags and protest banners across their small boats








A small French fishing vessel holds up a protest banner as two men stand on top of it and another on the deck amid the blockade

A small French fishing vessel holds up a protest banner as two men stand on top of it and another on the deck amid the blockade

A small French fishing vessel holds up a protest banner as two men stand on top of it and another on the deck amid the blockade

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Trade Minister Greg Hands also spoke to their French counterparts yesterday and raised concerns about the recent provocations. Pictured: The protest today

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Trade Minister Greg Hands also spoke to their French counterparts yesterday and raised concerns about the recent provocations. Pictured: The protest today

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Trade Minister Greg Hands also spoke to their French counterparts yesterday and raised concerns about the recent provocations. Pictured: The protest today

French fishermen hang a banner as fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey

French fishermen hang a banner as fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey

French fishermen hang a banner as fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey

They are trying to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit

They are trying to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit

They are trying to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit

French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit

French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit

French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit

The Ministry of Defence said: ‘HMS Severn and HMS Tamar are deploying to Jersey to conduct maritime security patrols. This is a strictly precautionary measure and has been agreed with the Jersey Government.’

Mr Johnson ‘stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions and for dialogue between Jersey and France on fishing access’ in talks with Chief Minister of Jersey John Le Fondre and the island’s minister of external affairs Ian Gorst.

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘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.’

Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey MP said: ‘The threats on Jersey are completely unreasonable. The Navy’s experience in sensitive situations will help reassure residents and protect Britain’s broader national interests.

‘The British government must now get round the table with French colleagues and authorities in Jersey and sort this issue out.’

But Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, said there is not much the Royal Navy vessels can do.

He told TalkRadio: ‘It’s something that should be dealt with by… not with direct action like this. I always find negotiations by diplomacy rather than by gunboats as you call them.

‘There’s not really much in my view that a couple of patrol vessels are going to be able to do if a significant number of French fishing vessels decide to actually blockade the port.’

Rear Admiral Chris Parry added the Royal Navy vessels were sent to ‘monitor the situation’ and to tell the French ‘this is getting out of hand’.

He told LBC: ‘I think what they’re going to try and do is reduce tensions and say we’ve noticed it’s got to a level where we’ve got to start talking seriously between civilised countries and let’s get back to the negotiating table.

‘If they don’t like something locally in Normandy or Brittany they always go and blockade something or somebody. I think they’re forgetting the Royal Navy is the group that’s really good at blockading people.’

He added: ‘I think early action by the Government in sending a couple of small warships will actually say to the French you’ve got our attention, we’re going to talk now, but let’s not be silly.’ 

French boats steam across the water outside the port of St Helier on Thursday morning as they continued their demonstration

French boats steam across the water outside the port of St Helier on Thursday morning as they continued their demonstration

French boats steam across the water outside the port of St Helier on Thursday morning as they continued their demonstration

Two of the French fishermen are pictured on their boat as they continue the protest over fishing access in British territory

Two of the French fishermen are pictured on their boat as they continue the protest over fishing access in British territory

Two of the French fishermen are pictured on their boat as they continue the protest over fishing access in British territory 

A banner hangs on a French fishing boat as other boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey

A banner hangs on a French fishing boat as other boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey

A banner hangs on a French fishing boat as other boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey

A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour, Jersey, on Thursday morning as they threaten to blockade the island

A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour, Jersey, on Thursday morning as they threaten to blockade the island

A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour, Jersey, on Thursday morning as they threaten to blockade the island

This photograph of St Helier Harbour this morning shows fishing vessels heading towards it during the threatened blockade amid the fallout over fishing rights

This photograph of St Helier Harbour this morning shows fishing vessels heading towards it during the threatened blockade amid the fallout over fishing rights

This photograph of St Helier Harbour this morning shows fishing vessels heading towards it during the threatened blockade amid the fallout over fishing rights








What does the Brexit trade deal say on fishing, and why has the row erupted? 

The post-Brexit trade deal sealed between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen before Christmas gave EU fleets transitional rights to UK fishing waters.

That area stretches 200 nautical miles from the coast, or to a maritime halfway point between neighbouring countries. 

The EU fishing quota for UK waters was reduced by 15 per cent this year, and will go down another 2.5 percentage points each year until 2026.

From that point the UK will in theory have the right to ban the bloc’s fishing fleets altogether, although there will need to be annual negotiations.

Crucially for the current situation, UK and EU vessels now require a licence to fish in each other’s waters. 

And a row has erupted over the specific regulations introduced by the Jersey government to implement the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

They require French boats to demonstrate they have a history of fishing in Jersey’s waters in order to get licences, with Jersey adamant that is what the TCA sets out.

However, the French authorities claim these ‘new technical measures’ for accessing waters off the Channel Islands have not been communicated to the EU.

As a result they have been dismissed as ‘null and void’.

There are also disputed allegations that Jersey has been dragging its heels in approving licences for boats that have applied.  

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Trade Minister Greg Hands also spoke to their French counterparts yesterday and raised concerns about the recent provocations.

Government sources said Environment Secretary George Eustice has repeatedly tried to set up a meeting with Mrs Girardin in the past 48 hours but the French minister has been unable or unwilling to attend.

Speaking yesterday, Mrs Girardin warned France was prepared to use ‘retaliatory measures’ outlined in the Brexit deal following the bitter row over fishing rights.

She added: ‘Regarding Jersey, I remind you of the delivery of electricity along underwater cables… even if it would be regrettable if we had to do it, we’ll do it if we have to.’

Stephanie Yon-Courtin, a French MEP and member of the EU Fisheries Committee, called on the people of Jersey and the UK Government to ‘understand that our fishermen need to carry on working’.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘This situation is all the more sad because historically Jersey and the French fisherman have always had very cordial and pretty good relations for the past decade.

‘Some of Jersey’s people need to understand, and Jersey’s government and UK Government, have to to understand that our fishermen need to carry on working.

Asked if she supported the threat that power could be cut off to Jersey in the future, she added: ‘I’m just saying that at the last resort, if we don’t have any other means to be understood, then we will have to consider that.

‘We don’t want to do that, I don’t think it’s good, I don’t think it’s good for anybody.’

Around 95 per cent of Jersey’s electricity supply comes via a £40million undersea electricity cable which was laid between the island 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.

A senior Government source said Mrs Girardin’s comments were ‘surprising and disappointing, especially from a close neighbour’, adding: ‘This is just the latest example of the EU issuing threats as a first resort at any sign of difficulty.’

Don Thompson, president of Jersey Fishermen’s Association, said the ‘big question on everybody’s lips right now is ‘will our Government capitulate to that sort of tactic?’.

He told Good Morning Britain: ‘The French fishermen out there want conditions removed from their licences so that they can fish with no constraints in our waters, whilst our boats are subject to all sorts of conditions about how much they can catch, where they can go.’

He said it would be ‘grossly unfair’ if the Government does ‘capitulate to that’ and said such tactics might be used ‘again and again in the future’.

He added: ‘They’re not very happy fishermen down here this morning, suspecting that we probably will see our Government give in to that.’

Jersey foreign minister Ian Gorst

Jersey foreign minister Ian Gorst

French Seas Minister Annick Girardin

French Seas Minister Annick Girardin

Jersey foreign minister Ian Gorst (left) yesterday hit back at ‘disproportionate’ threats by French seas minister Annick Girardin (right) to cut off electricity to the island amid a fishing row 

Boris Johnson last night sent two Royal Navy boats to Jersey 'as a precaution' to monitor the situation following an 'unacceptable' threat from France to cut off electricity. Pictured: HMS Tamar in April

Boris Johnson last night sent two Royal Navy boats to Jersey 'as a precaution' to monitor the situation following an 'unacceptable' threat from France to cut off electricity. Pictured: HMS Tamar in April

Boris Johnson last night sent two Royal Navy boats to Jersey ‘as a precaution’ to monitor the situation following an ‘unacceptable’ threat from France to cut off electricity. Pictured: HMS Tamar in April

The HMS Severn is seen on the River Tyne on a previous deployment ahead of leaving for Jersey waters on Wednesday

The HMS Severn is seen on the River Tyne on a previous deployment ahead of leaving for Jersey waters on Wednesday

The Royal Navy’s HMS Severn Offshore Patrol Vessel enters the River Tyne on a previous deployment

HMS SEVERN STATS

Displacement: 1,700 tonnes

Length: 79.5 m (260 ft 10 in)

Beam: 13.5 m (44 ft 3 in)

Draught: 3.8 m (12 ft 6 in)

Speed: 20 kn (37 km/h)

Propulsion: Two Ruston 12RK diesel engines

Range: 5,500 nmi (10,200 km)

Endurance: 21 days

Capacity: 50 

Armament:

1 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannon

2 × General purpose machine guns 

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HMS TAMAR STATS

Displacement: 2,000 tonnes

Length: 90.5 m (296 ft 11 in)

Beam: 13 m (42 ft 8 in)

Draught: 3.8 m (12 ft 6 in)

Speed: 24 kn (44 km/h)

Propulsion: Two V16 main engines 

Range: 5,500 nmi (10,200 km)

Endurance: 35 days

Capacity: 70 

Armament:

1 × 30mm Mark 44 Bushmaster II mounted cannon

2 × General purpose machine guns

2 × Miniguns

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Jersey’s foreign affairs minister Mr Gorst also vented fury at the threat, saying ‘it is not the first… that France has made’ over fisheries and warning the ‘confusing’ EU trade agreement had caused the feud.

Mr Gorst said that of the 41 boats which sought licences under the new post-Brexit rules last Friday, all but 17 had provided the evidence required.

He said the fishermen have simply failed to provide enough data about their historic fishing routes, and as soon as this data is provided the licences will be updated to allow them access.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Gorst said: ‘We absolutely respect the historic rights of French fishermen to fish in Jersey waters as they have been doing for centuries.

‘But the trade deal – that Jersey didn’t negotiate, and nor did France – says that fishing vessels have to… provide all of the evidence of the amount of fishing they have actually done [in the last three years].

‘We can all see that this is not the first threat that the French have made, either to Jersey or the United Kingdom, since we’re into this new deal. 

‘It would seem disproportionate to cut off electricity for the sake of needing to provide extra details so we can refine the licences.

‘The trade deal is clear that when fishermen provide the evidence, we will provide the licences.’ 

Boris Johnson (seen yesterday) waded into the row tonight with a government spokeswoman branding the 'disproportionate' sabre-rattling towards the Channel Island by Paris - insisting there were other ways of working out the issues

Boris Johnson (seen yesterday) waded into the row tonight with a government spokeswoman branding the 'disproportionate' sabre-rattling towards the Channel Island by Paris - insisting there were other ways of working out the issues

Boris Johnson (seen yesterday) waded into the row tonight with a government spokeswoman branding the ‘disproportionate’ sabre-rattling towards the Channel Island by Paris – insisting there were other ways of working out the issues

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the Academie Francaise Bicentenary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the Academie Francaise Bicentenary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the Academie Francaise Bicentenary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte

It is understood the Royal Navy vessels deployed are patrol boats HMS Severn and HMS Tamar. Pictured: HMS Tamar last May

It is understood the Royal Navy vessels deployed are patrol boats HMS Severn and HMS Tamar. Pictured: HMS Tamar last May

It is understood the Royal Navy vessels deployed are patrol boats HMS Severn and HMS Tamar. Pictured: HMS Tamar last May

Navy paints HMS Tamar with WWII ‘dazzle camouflage’

The ‘dazzle’ camouflage paint job applied to a new Royal Navy patrol ship was originally used on an array of vessels in the First and Second World War in the hope that it would confuse enemy German U-boats and ships.

Military chiefs have resurrected the colour scheme on HMS Tamar, which will head to the Asia-Pacific region later this year. It boasts shades of black, white and grey in strange, jarring shapes which were added by shipwrights at the A&P yard in Falmouth, Cornwall.

Dazzle camouflage owes its existence to Royal Navy officer and artist Norman Wilkinson and the height of the first Battle of the Atlantic in 1917. With Britain struggling to deal with the U-boat threat, Wilkinson came up with the idea of confusing skippers during patrols out of Plymouth.

He couldn’t make ships invisible – the smoke belching from their funnels were an obvious give-away – but he could make it much harder to identify them, or judge their course and speed. The paint job was used on WWI ships including HMS Furious and HMS Nairana before being appearing in the Second World War on HMS Badsworth and HMS Trinidad, among others.

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Didier Leguelinel, from the Normandy fishing committee, last night told the Daily Telegraph he could not stop the anticipated blockade, saying: ‘The general feeling is that we have been insulted by the Jersey Government.’

Simmering tensions between France the UK over rights to fish in the Channel suddenly boiled over last Friday when post-Brexit trading rules came into force around the island of Jersey.

The new rules mean any large French fishing vessels that want to enter the waters will need a licence provided by Jersey’s government.

But fishermen have complained the licences have been issued with conditions that they were previously unaware of and which had not previously been cleared with French authorities.

French regional officials spoke out about the issue at the weekend, before the French government got involved and ramped up the rhetoric on Wednesday. 

Angered fishermen also began calling for a blockade of the island, and for their British counterparts to be banned from landing their catch at French ports. 

At the moment, under the terms of the trade deal, French fishermen have to apply for their licence to their government, which then sends the application to Westminster, before it is passed on to Jersey. 

In another sign of fraying tensions, it was revealed that Normandy will not reopen its honorary diplomatic premises in Jersey post-Covid – effectively cutting ties with the Channel Island. 

Mr Gorst described the decision as ‘disappointing’ and added that ‘those historic ties are really important to us.’ 

Mr Gorst insisted the row come down to just 17 licences for French boats that have not provided enough data about their historic fishing routes (file image, French fishermen protest the licences last month)

Mr Gorst insisted the row come down to just 17 licences for French boats that have not provided enough data about their historic fishing routes (file image, French fishermen protest the licences last month)

Mr Gorst insisted the row come down to just 17 licences for French boats that have not provided enough data about their historic fishing routes (file image, French fishermen protest the licences last month)

French fishermen have also called for a blockade of Jersey and for British vessels to be banned from landing their catches in French ports until the licences are sorted (file image, French fishermen protest the licences last month)

French fishermen have also called for a blockade of Jersey and for British vessels to be banned from landing their catches in French ports until the licences are sorted (file image, French fishermen protest the licences last month)

French fishermen have also called for a blockade of Jersey and for British vessels to be banned from landing their catches in French ports until the licences are sorted (file image, French fishermen protest the licences last month) 

Around 95 per cent of Jersey's electricity supply comes via a £40million undersea electricity cable which was laid between the island (above, Saint Helier) and France in 2016

Around 95 per cent of Jersey's electricity supply comes via a £40million undersea electricity cable which was laid between the island (above, Saint Helier) and France in 2016

Around 95 per cent of Jersey’s electricity supply comes via a £40million undersea electricity cable which was laid between the island (above, Saint Helier) and France in 2016

Energy links to France ‘reviewed’ 

By Elliot Mulligan for the Daily Mail

Britain could review its energy links with France in the wake of the row over Jersey, it was claimed last night.

Britain currently imports about 8 per cent of its power from foreign nations and Northern Ireland via underwater interconnectors.

But as the UK becomes more reliant on wind power, there are plans to increase foreign electricity imports to about 25 per cent, which would be relied upon when the renewable source is low. 

However, a Whitehall source told The Daily Telegraph the UK would have to take a more cautious view of the French as an energy partner in the wake of its threat to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply.

It is understood the Government now views the Netherlands as a more reliable ally and is looking at projects with that country. 

The move could jeopardise a controversial £1.1billion scheme to build a cable between Hampshire and Le Havre to provide electricity to millions of homes.

Alexander Temerko, an energy tycoon and Tory donor who is leading the project, said a link to Jersey could be added to his or other interconnectors to cut the island’s reliance on its undersea cables to France.

He said: ‘We need to avoid putting people under humanitarian risk.’ 

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He held talks with Marc Lefevre, the president of the La Manche region of northern France, yesterday on the ‘difficult set of issues relating to fishing licences’.

‘There are a number of important matters which we will continue to work through,’ he said.

Mr Gorst added the Jersey government is now seeking permission from London and Brussels to speak directly with the French fishermen concerned to resolve the issue. 

Meanwhile, UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi urged all sides to ‘work constructively’ to find a solution. 

‘This is an issue for the [EU] commission to work with our team and all the indications from minister (David) Frost and his team is that the commission is taking seriously some of these operational challenges that we need to fix together,’ he said.

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 insisting that French fishing vessels carry data-tracking 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. 

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 said. 

It added 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.

Last night's decision followed talks between the Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Jersey, John Le Fondre (above), regarding threats of a blockade of Saint Helier made as a dispute over post-Brexit access to Jersey waters escalated

Last night's decision followed talks between the Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Jersey, John Le Fondre (above), regarding threats of a blockade of Saint Helier made as a dispute over post-Brexit access to Jersey waters escalated

Last night’s decision followed talks between the Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Jersey, John Le Fondre (above), regarding threats of a blockade of Saint Helier made as a dispute over post-Brexit access to Jersey waters escalated

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

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

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

Downing Street confirmed the Prime Minister has spoken to the Chief Minister of Jersey John Le Fondre regarding threats of a blockade of Saint Helier - the only town on the Channel Island

Downing Street confirmed the Prime Minister has spoken to the Chief Minister of Jersey John Le Fondre regarding threats of a blockade of Saint Helier - the only town on the Channel Island

Downing Street confirmed the Prime Minister has spoken to the Chief Minister of Jersey John Le Fondre regarding threats of a blockade of Saint Helier – the only town on the Channel Island

‘These new technical measures are not applicable to our fishermen as things stand.’

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.’ 

DANIEL HANNAN: Emmanuel Macron, the new Napoleon? No, he’s a Poundland Putin 

A stable democracy doesn’t threaten to cut off its neighbour’s energy supplies. That is the sort of behaviour we associate with rogue states.

Putin’s Russia, for example, sometimes resorts to ‘gas diplomacy’ to browbeat Ukraine and other nearby states. An energy blockade is calculatedly bellicose — if not exactly an act of war, then certainly a declaration of hostile intent.

Incredibly, such a threat is now being made by the French government against Jersey, a British Crown dependency 14 miles from the Normandy coast, in a row over fishing licences.

In a dramatic development last night, as Boris Johnson pledged his ‘unwavering support’ for the island, it was announced that two Royal Navy patrol vessels will be sent to monitor this planned French blockade of Jersey’s main port.

A stable democracy doesn¿t threaten to cut off its neighbour¿s energy supplies. That is the sort of behaviour we associate with rogue states. Pictured: French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron stand in front of the tomb of French Emperor Napoleon during a ceremony marking the 200th anniversary of his death in Paris on May 5

A stable democracy doesn¿t threaten to cut off its neighbour¿s energy supplies. That is the sort of behaviour we associate with rogue states. Pictured: French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron stand in front of the tomb of French Emperor Napoleon during a ceremony marking the 200th anniversary of his death in Paris on May 5

A stable democracy doesn’t threaten to cut off its neighbour’s energy supplies. That is the sort of behaviour we associate with rogue states. Pictured: French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron stand in front of the tomb of French Emperor Napoleon during a ceremony marking the 200th anniversary of his death in Paris on May 5

Putin¿s Russia, for example, sometimes resorts to ¿gas diplomacy¿ to browbeat Ukraine and other nearby states. An energy blockade is calculatedly bellicose ¿ if not exactly an act of war, then certainly a declaration of hostile intent

Putin¿s Russia, for example, sometimes resorts to ¿gas diplomacy¿ to browbeat Ukraine and other nearby states. An energy blockade is calculatedly bellicose ¿ if not exactly an act of war, then certainly a declaration of hostile intent

Putin’s Russia, for example, sometimes resorts to ‘gas diplomacy’ to browbeat Ukraine and other nearby states. An energy blockade is calculatedly bellicose — if not exactly an act of war, then certainly a declaration of hostile intent

Cod Wars and the bitter 30-year ‘war for the waters’: How Icelandic and British fishermen first clashed over fishing grounds in the 1950s

The Government’s decision to send two Royal Navy gunships in response to a threat by French fishing boats to blockade the harbour of Jersey has sparked fears of a return to the so-called Cod Wars of the 1950s and 1970s.

Those confrontations saw Britain and Iceland clash repeatedly over access to waters in the North Atlantic.

The quarrels were so ill-tempered that at times the Royal Navy had to step in to stop Icelandic boats from interfering with British trawlers. At its peak, 37 Royal Navy ships were mobilised to protect British trawlers who were fishing in the disputed territory.

The Frigate HMS Scylla even collided with the Icelandic fishing vessel ICGV Odinn. The First Cod War took place in the autumn of 1958 and was caused by arguments over who could fish in the seas surrounding tiny Iceland.

The Grimsby trawler Gavina is pictured being harassed by Icelandic gunboat Averkur during the 'Cod Wars' in June 1973

The Grimsby trawler Gavina is pictured being harassed by Icelandic gunboat Averkur during the 'Cod Wars' in June 1973

The Grimsby trawler Gavina is pictured being harassed by Icelandic gunboat Averkur during the ‘Cod Wars’ in June 1973

Iceland had brought in new laws that extended their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – the area of sea a country controls exclusively – to 12 miles.

After skirmishes off the coast of Iceland, the British Government accepted it had to back down. The Second Cod War came in September 1972, when Iceland extended its EEZ further to 50 miles. The UK refused to accept this new limit and the Royal Navy intervened to protect British vessels.

Eventually it was agreed that Britain could fish in certain areas within the zone, so long as no more than 130,000 tons of cod was removed each year.

The final Cod War came in late 1975, when Iceland increased its EEZ limit once more – this time to 200 miles. Due to the presence of a US-manned NATO naval air base in Iceland, the Americans put pressure on Britain to back down, over fears Iceland might force the base to close.

Eventually, it was agreed that a maximum of 24 British trawlers could fish in the new EEZ, as long as their catch did not exceed 50,000 tons. There have also been more recent rows over fishing rights between Britain and its European neighbours. 

In 2018 a so-called ‘scallop war’ erupted which saw French and British boats angrily clash over access to shellfish off the coast of Normandy.

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Jersey gets most of its electricity from cables that run under that short stretch of water from France. 

A contract with the French firm EDF, which runs until 2027, provides for over 90 per cent of the island’s power — though Jersey Electricity insists that, if supplies are disrupted, it can generate whatever is needed.

Whether or not the French government has the legal authority to override Jersey’s contract with EDF, it certainly has the practical capacity: EDF is state-owned.

So when France’s Maritime Minister Annick Girardin threatens ‘retaliatory measures’ and says ‘France has many levers, notably on the supply of electricity by undersea cables to Jersey,’ we should take her seriously.

By ‘we’, I mean all of us in the United Kingdom, which is responsible for Jersey’s international relations. For this is a Brexit dispute — part of a wider EU campaign of intimidation since our decision to leave.

Jersey was never in the EU, and so was never fully part of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Yet it has now been dragged into this argument because of French resentment of the UK’s reassertion of control over its territorial waters.

The details of the dispute are technical, almost petty. The UK and the Channel Islands recognise the historic rights of boats that have always fished in their waters. 

A new system for verifying such claims was brought in when we left the CFP, but not all French skippers were able to comply with it.

This is, in other words, a situation broadly comparable to the imposition of extra checks on British exporters, especially of shellfish, who sold to Continental markets. New procedures mean extra paperwork and, in some cases, lost sales.

How did our Government respond to that earlier dispute? It worked patiently to overcome the new bureaucracy and, in the meantime, it compensated the affected industries.

French ministers, by contrast, have issued public threats rather that engaging quietly with their opposite numbers.

Why such hysterical escalation? This is not the first time that the Channel Islands have been in our front line. Jersey was attacked in 1406 during the Hundred Years War, and again in 1779 and 1781 when France sought to take advantage of the revolution in America.

The island was also occupied by Germany from July 1940 until the surrender in May 1945 — a wretched experience that saw its children evacuated to mainland UK, and thus all but killed off the dialect of Norman French that had been widespread.

These days, France is supposed to be a Nato ally. Yet here it is threatening the sort of sanctions that might be more aptly deployed against an enemy, such as North Korea.

Part of the explanation might lie in Emmanuel Macron’s increasingly dictatorial behaviour. It is extraordinary to think that the French president was once hailed as a liberal centrist.

During the recent row over vaccines, for example, he made the kinds of statements that get anti-vaxxers banned from social media, claiming that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was ineffective, but simultaneously demanding legal action to get more of it.

His grandiose gestures — yesterday, he laid a wreath at the tomb of Napoleon, who destroyed the French republic with a putsch then plunged Europe into a series of disastrous wars — suggest autocracy rather than moderation.

His grandiose gestures ¿ yesterday, he laid a wreath at the tomb of Napoleon, who destroyed the French republic with a putsch then plunged Europe into a series of disastrous wars ¿ suggest autocracy rather than moderation. Pictured: Macron and his wife stand in front of the tomb of Napoleon during a ceremony on May 5

His grandiose gestures ¿ yesterday, he laid a wreath at the tomb of Napoleon, who destroyed the French republic with a putsch then plunged Europe into a series of disastrous wars ¿ suggest autocracy rather than moderation. Pictured: Macron and his wife stand in front of the tomb of Napoleon during a ceremony on May 5

His grandiose gestures — yesterday, he laid a wreath at the tomb of Napoleon, who destroyed the French republic with a putsch then plunged Europe into a series of disastrous wars — suggest autocracy rather than moderation. Pictured: Macron and his wife stand in front of the tomb of Napoleon during a ceremony on May 5

Perhaps he is worried about the rise of Marine Le Pen, who is catching up with him in the polls. 

Last week, the leader of the National Rally endorsed a letter written by 20 retired generals that hinted at a military intervention to prevent France sliding into chaos — a letter backed, according to the polls, by 58 per cent of French voters.

Perhaps Macron wants to burnish his nationalist credentials. Perhaps he calculates that bashing the Brits (in the eyes of most French voters, Jerseymen count as Brits) plays well with the home crowd. Or perhaps he sees himself as another Bonaparte, leading France to glory.

Whatever the explanation, he plainly likes to exaggerate his quarrels with the UK, not least over fisheries.

If it were solely a row about fishing vessels’ licences, we might be able to shrug it off. But this is the latest in a series of salvoes that have been fired at Britain since the Brexit vote.

Some of these have been micro-aggressions: sneering tweets from Eurocrats or outrageous claims by Charles Michel, President of the European Council, that the UK is prohibiting vaccine exports.

Others have been more serious. The UK, for example, has granted what is known as ‘equivalence’ to EU financial services companies, allowing them to operate here as if regulated in the UK. 

This is a normal courtesy among developed countries. But the EU refuses to reciprocate.

Then there was the vaccine blockade, in which Macron played such a low role. Embarrassed because they had been slow to place orders, and desperate to deflect blame, the European Commission announced a targeted embargo from which every neighbouring country was exempted except the UK.

Most seriously, there is the determination in Brussels to use the Northern Ireland Protocol to force Britain to follow its rules. Many of the EU’s constituent nations are our allies, but the Brussels institutions cannot be considered well-disposed.

Eurocrats see our economic success, not as an opportunity to sell more to their largest market, but as an affront. They view Britain, not as a partner, but as a renegade province.

And how should we respond?

One obvious step is to reduce our dependence on electricity generated in the EU. We mustn’t be in a position again where we can be blackmailed as Jersey is.

More widely, we need to rethink our geopolitical goals. Just as our trade is going global, so should our strategic assumptions. For decades, we rightly focused on the defence of Europe through Nato.

But can we continue to defend an antagonistic EU, with all the joint operations and intelligence-sharing implied?

Our truest friends, like our richest prospects, lie across the oceans. It is clearly time to raise our eyes.

Lord Hannan is a former Conservative MEP and serves on the UK Board of Trade.  

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