Why are Jersey and France warring over fishing rights?
What were the pre-Brexit arrangements for fishing waters?
Until January 1 this year, the UK was subject to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). That meant that fleets from EU states had equal access to the the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of other countries.
EEZ areas stretch 200 nautical miles from the coast of each state, or to a maritime halfway point between neighbouring countries. The British fishing industry had long complained that the arrangements meant EU fleets were plundering what should be their catch.
What has changed?
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. 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.
What are the French angry about?
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.
So, what could happen now and would it ever REALLY end in war?
There is a huge amount of sabre-rattling going on, with the UK deploying the navy to counter an extraordinary blockage by French fishing vessels. French ministers have been backing their fishing fleet, threatening to cut power to the Channel Island in retaliation. When such confrontations develop there is always the risk of a miscalculation and real clashes.
Boris Johnson has urged the French to use the ‘mechanisms of our new treaty to solve problems’ rather than resort to threats. There are rumours of a call between Mr Johnson and Emmanuel Macron, although No10 said there is nothing arranged yet.
The row over Channel fishing rights escalated tonight after furious French skippers threatened to block UK goods from entering Calais.
About 70 French trawlers staged a protest at Jersey’s capital St Helier on Thursday, before beating a retreat after two Navy gunships arrived.
The standoff came after some French boats were refused licences to fish in Jersey’s waters under post-Brexit rules. In response, French minister Annick Girardin warned that Paris could cut off electricity to Jersey.
Amid high tensions, both Britain and France deployed ships to the island. HMS Tamar and HMS Severn are expected to return to the mainland on Friday after the retreat by the French vessels.
But in a sign the row is far from over, the fishermen tonight threatened to blockade Calais, saying they would stop British goods from entering the EU unless all of their boats were allowed to fish in Jersey’s waters.
Oliver Lepretre, chairman of the Northern France fisheries committee, said: ‘The fishermen are saying that if we don’t get what we want, we will go and block Calais.’
Mr Lepretre said a protest was possible ‘within a few days’ and trawlers from Normandy could carry out copycat action at the port of Cherbourg.
He said Eurocrats at the European Commission ‘needed to move their a***’ and trigger the retaliatory measures laid out in the Brexit agreement struck with Britain last year.
He added: ‘[The British] are blocking our boats by any means possible.’
A Government source hit back, saying: ‘The difficulties the French claim to have should be resolved by dialogue, not endless blockades.
‘We also have a newly ratified trade agreement with appropriate dispute resolution mechanisms if needed. This sort of disruption benefits no one.’
The Royal Navy earlier ordered its two gunships to return home from Jersey after they sent French fishermen scurrying back home from an attempted blockade of the island sparked by a row over post-Brexit fishing rights.
The fishermen said they were ready to restage the Battle of Trafalgar as they descended on the harbour this morning. But by 1.30pm the armada had given in and was seen heading back towards France.
Don Thompson, president of Jersey Fishermen’s Association, told Sky News that the French boats blockading the harbour had returned home but were not dropping their demands, as the EU accused Jersey of breaking the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
France had sent two patrol craft to face-off with two Royal Navy ships in the Channel, which were there to marshal the 100 demonstrating ships in Jersey.
The Athos and FS Themis hurtled towards the British Crown dependency to confront HMS Severn and HMS Tamar – despite them being far superior in size and power.
But they came to a halt before entering UK waters and watched on from afar. Jersey’s minister of external affairs Ian Gorst said the ship had not asked permission from Britain or the island to enter.
With the face-off ending peacefully a government spokesman said Royal Navy vessels HMS Tamar and Severn would now prepare to return to port.
‘We are pleased that French fishing boats have now left the vicinity of Jersey,’ the spokesman said. ‘Given the situation is resolved for now, the Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels will prepare to return to port in the UK.’
They added that the Navy remained ‘on standby’ to help Jersey if the issue resurfaced in future.
‘Jersey authorities have a right to regulate fisheries in their waters under this agreement and we support them in exercising those rights. We will work with Jersey to support the discussions under way with the European Commission.’
Elsewhere tonight, Jersey’s chief minister, Senator John Le Fondre, said he held a ‘constructive meeting’ with protesting French fishermen in a bid to resolve the dispute, adding the dialogue ‘enabled both parties to better understand’ how the issued can be addressed.
He said: ‘We recognise that there have been challenges in the implementation of the new trade agreement.
‘We are proposing the establishment of a forum which will enable the Government of Jersey to continue to engage with all fishermen in the region openly and constructively.
‘I’d like to thank Deputy Guida and all the other parties whose work has enabled the French fishermen to leave Jersey knowing that they had been listened to and that a step has been taken towards resolving the issues that have arisen during the move to the new trade agreement.’
About 70 French trawlers (several seen above) staged a protest at Jersey’s capital St Helier yesterday, before beating a retreat after two Navy gunships arrived
The standoff came after some French boats were refused licences to fish in Jersey’s waters under post-Brexit rules. In response, French minister Annick Girardin warned that Paris could cut off electricity to Jersey. Pictured: Saint Helier
Locals watch as French fishing boats leave Jersey waters following their protest in front of the port of Saint Helier, with a Royal Navy ship in the background
French fishermen said they were ready to restage the Battle of Trafalgar as they descended on the harbour this morning. But by 1.30pm navigation charts showed the armada had given in and was sailing back towards their home waters
The row was 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 (pictured are departing French fishing boats)
Jersey fisherman threatened by mob at French port
A Jersey fisherman was threatened by a mob when he tried to deliver his haul to a French business this afternoon.
Jason Bonhomme was physically threatened as he landed in the French port of Carteret with his half tonne of Cuttlefish.
As he berthed along the sea wall and tried to climb up a ladder, a mob abused and threatened him, forcing him to leave with the £4,000 consignment.
Don Thompson, President of the Jersey Fisherman’s Association told MailOnline: ‘He was basically led to believe this would be his last day on earth if he didn’t turn back.
‘He was climbing up the ladder to begin delivering his order to a French business when the mob stopped him.
‘This incident has just happened at Carteret at around 4.30pm. Jason, who has known many of these French fisherman for years, was forced to leave without making his delivery.
‘He had filled in all the online forms, duplicated them as is required and submitted them to all the relevant authorities and he still could not carry on his business.
‘He will be dumping the fish as a dead load at sea now. There are few things worse to a fisherman than having to do that.’
Britain is asking French trawlers to provide electronic tracking data from 2012 to 2016 to prove historical fishing links to British and Channel Islands waters.
But Mr Lepretre said many French vessels were not fitted with GPS technology at the time.
He added: ‘We knew that there would be problems with fishing. We said that a war would come from French fisheries.’
Boris Johnson said he was ‘pleased that the situation in Jersey has been resolved’. The Prime Minister thanked the Royal Navy for its ‘swift response’, adding: ‘The UK will always stand resolutely by the people of Jersey.’
He had earlier voiced his ‘unequivocal support’ for the actions taken by Jersey’s government.
It is understood that Mrs Girardin is still refusing to speak to Environment Secretary George Eustice over the issue regarding post-Brexit fishing rights.
And Paris has yet to trigger the official Brexit dispute resolution mechanism.
The French government last night said it was acting in a ‘spirit of responsibility’ in response to a ‘British failure’ to abide by the terms of the Brexit trade deal.
It comes after shocking footage from the protest on Thursday caught the moment a French ship attacked a British boat in the Channel off Jersey.
The steel trawler Lasgot speeds up as it hurtles towards the UK pleasure boat and makes a huge bang as it makes contact.
The fibreglass rips apart and skipper Jonathan Ruff is forced to return to the harbour. The millionaire property developer said he was just ‘sticking up for the island’ after the angry french blockade began at around 6am.
He told the Sun: ‘I couldn’t believe what he was doing. He deliberately sped up and went straight for me clipping my bow. If he had hit my engine I would have been in big, big trouble, I could have lost the boat and anything could have happened.
‘They were out of order and if it wasn’t for some quick evasive action my boat could have been at the bottom of the Channel. He must have known that I would have come off worse if he had hit me – he’s a steel trawler and my boat is only a little pleasure craft. It was totally reckless of him.’
Meanwhile smaller vessels went after a British cargo boat called the Commodore Goodwill earlier this morning, stopping it from leaving the harbour. They lined up and formed a small raft in front of the freight ferry while some set off red flares and hurled them into the water near the UK craft.
The leader of the demonstration later had to ask the French boats to leave the harbour to let the freight ferry depart.
Jean-Claude La Vaullée, skipper of Le Cach, said during the blockade: ‘I’ve refuelled the boat – we’re ready to restage the Battle of Trafalgar.’
Cyril Piraud, skipper of a Normandy boat called The Pearl, demanded France’s Sea Minister go through with her threat to cut off electricity to the island. ‘We’re calling on Annick Girardin, the Minister of the Sea, to put her threats into action,’ he said.
Jersey fisherman Josh Dearing described the port this morning as ‘like an invasion’.
Meanwhile, a member of the Jersey Militia re-enactment group got in on the action by firing a blank musket round in the direction of the French boats.
An onlooker at the port in Jersey captured the moment a British vessel (right hand side of image) is forced to spin around to avoid a side-on collision with a French boat seen hurtling towards it. The brown French vessel does end up smacking into the side of the British boat without causing significant damage
Lasgot, a four tonne vessel from Cherbourg is believed to have rammed a pleasure craft belonging to a Briton in the harbour today
‘We’re ready to restage the Battle of Trafalgar’: The sabre-ratting French fishing boats blocking Jersey harbour in post-Brexit face-off with Royal Navy
French fishing boats are blockading St Hellier as part of a flotilla estimated at 100 vessels. Marine tracking software shows almost ships within site of shore being being closely monitored by HMS Tamar and HMS Severn.
But a French Athos-class patrol boat headed to the area at high speed. Among the vessels inside the breakwater of St Hellier harbour are the French fishing vessels Flash, L’écume 1 and La Presque Ile II.
The La Presque Ile II left Carteret – which is less than 15 miles from Jersey at 3.05am arriving in St Hellier at 6.40am. Others photographed sailing across the harbour include Monaco Du Nord II and the La Bulotiere III.
Also spotted were the The Sirocco IX, a 17-tonne trawler the Kertimael II, which is only three tonnes and the Santa Clara. Other ships involved in the protest include:
- Cap Pilar
- FCharle Marie 2
- Cap Lihou
- Le Cume 1
- Boree Al
- Marie Catherine II
- Fury Breizh
- Thais Leo
- Ev Le Saint Gaud
- Le Pearl
- Black Pearl 1
- Hermine Bastien
- Santa Clara
- La Presqu Ile II
- Monaco Du Nord 2
Mr Johnson is understood to have decided to deploy the huge British patrol boats on Wednesday night after intelligence revealed the 100 fishing boats would block access to the port at Saint Helier.
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 protest.
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.’
Meanwhile French fishermen on tiny vessels said they were ready to restage the Battle of Trafalgar as they headed towards the Royal Navy ships.
Jean-Claude La Vaullée, skipper of Le Cach, said: ‘I’ve refuelled the boat – we’re ready to restage the Battle of Trafalgar.’
The furious fisherman, who has been working off Jersey for more than 40 years, said he had now been given the right to ’11 hours fishing a year’ in the area.
The Battle of Trafalgar of 1805 was in fact a massive defeat for the French and Spanish fleets, as Admiral Lord Nelson led the Royal Navy to a historic victory.
Romain Davodet, another French fisherman, said they had been told the Jersey decision ‘were irreversible’ and around 250 vessels faced disaster, along with ‘more than 2,000 jobs ashore.’
Another, Théo Marais, added: ‘I’m having my first boat built.
‘I’m 24, it’s a Euro 825,000 boat that I’m not even sure I can launch it! We love our jobs. We don’t want to live on aid, what we want is to work.’
The European Commission defended the fishermen as it blasted Britain, saying the terms of the EU/UK trade deal are not being met in waters off the coast of Jersey, due to the conditions imposed on licences for French fishing boats there.
Spokesman Vivian Loonela told a Brussels briefing: ‘On April 30, the commission was notified by the UK authorities of granting 41 licences to the EU vessels who are fishing in Jersey territorial waters from May 1. But there were additional conditions set to these licences.
‘We have, following the receiving of this, indicated to the UK that we see that the provisions of the EU/UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, that we recently agreed, have not been met there, have not being respected.’
Meanwhile, the Commodore Goodwill, pictured, was blocked by the French trawlers including the Nais, Thais Leo and L’Ecume 1 which sailed across her bow in St Hellier harbour as part of the protest
The ‘invading’ French ships set up a blockade in the harbour at St Helier on the Channel Island of Jersey on Thursday morning, stopping boats from leaving port
HMS Tamar looms in the mist behind French fishing boats taking part in the protest on Thursday morning over their post-Brexit fishing rights
This graphic shows how the two Royal Navy vessels compare to the French patrol boat that has raced to confront them today
A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour, Jersey, as French fishermen protested post Brexit changes to fishing in the area. The HMS Tamar is seen here looming 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: French boats pen in a British vessel in St Helier Harbour this morning
Millionaire Jersey skipper whose pleasure boat was rammed by French trawler
A British boat skipper who was rammed by a French vessel during the battle for Jersey today is a millionaire property developer. Jonathan Ruff is a restaurant tycoon and has a number on the island including Café Quest, Tamba Park and Tamba Arcade.
He is also looking to convert the former Magic Touch store at the Weighbridge into an eatery. Mr Ruff’s other interest for Jersey include opening a casino and a strip club as well as cultivating hemp.
Through BCK Holdings he wants adult entertainment on the island to attract more holidaymakers. He told the Jersey Evening Post in January: ‘We could also have a strip club or some sort of adult entertainment venue – just stuff that would entice holidaymakers here.
‘Although we should keep them we cannot just rely on our green fields and country lanes. ‘We need other things that will entice people here and provide entertainment for Islanders at the same time.’
Jonathan Ruff is a restaurant tycoon and has a number on the island including Café Quest, Tamba Park and Tamba Arcade
The entrepreneur started in business when he was 17. He now owns and manages the business empire Ruff Ventures. He set up Northern Leaf in 2019 which cultivates hemp for medicinal cannabis.
The firm made a 100,000 square foot facility last year and began cultivation of hemp flower in the same year. He said: ‘Northern Leaf is powered by a management team selected for their extensive knowledge of the hemp and medicinal cannabis industry.
‘Together they are driving the business forward to be at the forefront of building a new globally relevant industry on the island of Jersey.’ Mr Ruff appears to be in a relationship with Madi Lena, who has shared glamorous pictures of them together in Jersey.
She set up a vintage clothes shop on the island called Madi Lena Boutique, which opened last year. The couple are believe to have a small farm, where they have chickens, goats and dogs.
As owner of Tamba Arcade on the island, Mr Ruff said: ‘Tamba Gaming Arcade is Jersey’s premier arcade with over 50 top of the range games! ‘Shooting games, car games, bike games, zombie games, skill games and prizes to be won, there’s something for all ages and expectations.
‘With many of our games issuing tickets that can be redeemed for items in our redemption shop, everyone is a winner!’ His business has also set up Ruff’s Kitchens, which is a charity set up to feed vulnerable children at school in Zimbabwe. His LinkedIn says it feeds more than 5,000 children a day there.
The European Commission said it was continuing discussions with the UK over licensing arrangements for French boats fishing in Jersey waters and called for ‘calm’ in the situation.
She said that under the trade and co-operation agreement, any new specific conditions that limit EU fishing activity in UK waters ‘need to comply with the objectives and principles’ that have been set out.
She told a Brussels briefing: ‘Those conditions have to be non-discriminatory between the UK and the EU. Also, but it is an important point, these conditions have to be notified in advance to the other party, so that there is sufficient time to assess and to react to the proposed measures.
‘Based on that, we have indicated that until we have received further justifications from the UK authorities, we consider that these new conditions should not apply.
‘We are continuing our discussions with the UK, we call for calm in this situation, and we are doing what is foreseen in the agreement, as well as keeping in mind of course the best interests of our fishing community.’
French Europe Minister Clement Beaune added of the UK send two gunboats: ‘We won’t be intimidated by these manoeuvres.’
But Mr Johnson today backed the British. A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister spoke to the Chief Minister of Jersey, Senator John Le Fondré, the Deputy Chief Minister, Lyndon Farnham and the Minister of External Affairs, Ian Gorst this morning.
‘The Chief Minister updated the Prime Minister on the latest developments with French fishing vessels around Jersey’s coast.
‘The Prime Minister reiterated his unequivocal support for Jersey and confirmed that the two Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels would remain in place to monitor the situation as a precautionary measure. They agreed to stay in touch as the situation develops.’
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.’
Tensions ratcheted up yesterday when French maritime minister Mrs Girardin 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.’
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.
Boris Johnson (pictured on his way to cast his vote today) is understood to have decided to deploy the huge patrol boats after intelligence revealed the 100 fishing boats would block access to the port at Saint Helier
The Sirocco IX, a 17-tonne French trawler involved in today’s protest, left, the three-tonne Kertimael II, centre and the Santa Clara, right
The French flotilla sailing across the entrance of St Hellier harbour – led by Monaco Du Nord II, left, Cap Pilar, third left, and the La Bulotiere III, right
The ten-tonne French vessel Cap Lizard was among the vessels blockading the harbour this morning
The maritime protesters lit flares and raised banners during the demonstration on Thursday morning. One here sets off a red flare while others follow in the distance
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 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
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
French fishing vessels are pictured staging the protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights this morning
French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier. They raised french flags and protest banners across their small boats. They bob across the water towards the harbour during the demonstration
French fishermen hang a banner from their boat as they take part in the protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey
A handout photo issued by Josh Dearing of French fishing vessels staging a protest in the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, this morning
‘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.’
How fisherman’s daughter dubbed the ‘pirate of hope’ sparked ‘fishing war’
Annick Girardin at a meeting in Cambodia in 2015 while Secretary of State for Development and Francophonie
Leading the sabre-rattling that added fire to today’s ‘fishing war’ in Jersey is Emmanuel Macron‘s hard-left maritime minister, a fisherman’s daughter and Brexit hater who has made inflammatory threats to ‘cut off’ the island’s electricity.
Maritime minister Annick Girardin, a member of the Radical Party of the Left, is a straight-talking political street fighter who in a previous role led efforts to defend the French language over the growing global influence of English – an abiding obsession of the country’s political class.
The 56-year-old, once dubbed ‘the Pirate of Hope’ in a TV documentary praising her radical credentials, grew up on Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, an isolated, weather-beaten French overseas territory of just over 6,000 souls off the coast of Newfoundland, where she gave birth to her first child, a daughter, aged 15.
She has repeatedly railed against Jersey officials for delaying the issuing of licences to French fishermen, the dispute that led to 70 boats threatening to blockade the harbour of the British Crown dependency, which in turn prompted Boris Johnson to send two Royal Navy gunships. Also responsible for fanning today’s dispute is David Sellam, the head of the Normandy-Brittany sea authority, who said that 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 sparsely-isolated archipelago of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, where Ms Girardin grew up, is heavily dependent on fishing due to its isolated location in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.
Her father began his career as a fisherman before opening a bakery shop, which is now run by her younger brother, David. Speaking to the Sunday Journal, she described having ‘two mothers’ while growing up – her mother and her grandmother – while her grandfather was a chief of public works.
She gave birth to a daughter, Anne-Claire, aged 15 and a half, forcing her to balance childcare with attending school. ‘In final year, before going to class, I dropped my daughter off at the nursery’, she said. Anne-Claire went on to become a weather presenter and cookery show host, and now has two children of her own, Milo and Eliott, making Ms Girardin a proud grandmother.
The minister’s partner is Jean-François Vigneau, a businessman on Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon who in 2019 attracted scrutiny for winning three public contracts worth £2.1million without competition. Ms Girardin, the great neice of Henri Claireaux, a French senator, joined the Radical Left Party in 1999, and established herself as a key political figure on the island with her left-wing attacks on the local council.
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.’
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.’
Two of the French fishermen are pictured on their boat as they continued 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
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.
Power struggle: UK plans to counter French threat to pull plug on Jersey
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.
But furious sources in Government have said the French threat to cut off Jersey’s energy has blotted its copybook and force them to consider alternative supplies.
They have identified the Netherlands as a more ‘reliable’ contact and are already in talks over how a deal could proceed.
Jersey Electricity, the group managing power on the island, is also known to be exploring renewables including solar and wave generators.
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.’
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.’
The Royal Navy’s HMS Severn Offshore Patrol Vessel enters the River Tyne on a previous deployment
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
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
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
1 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
2 × General purpose machine guns
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
1 × 30mm Mark 44 Bushmaster II mounted cannon
2 × General purpose machine guns
2 × Miniguns
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’.
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
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.
‘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.
‘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
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
Navy paints HMS Tamar with WWII ‘dazzle camouflage’ days before it is sent to Jersey
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.
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
‘A peaceful protest’: French media downplays Jersey fishing row
French media downplayed the Jersey fishing row today even as flotilla of boats blockaded the island’s port – saying just 50 vessels were involved in a ‘peaceful demonstration’ over post-Brexit fishing rites.
‘There is no question of attacking’, one French fisheries official was quoted as saying, despite British and French naval gunboats mooring nearby. ‘The goal of the game is to be seen, to show our determination.’
Le Monde, one of France’s biggest newspapers, said the protest came after a ‘half-hearted’ threat to cut off the island’s electricity by French Sea Minister Annick Girardin. The island depends on France for 95 per cent of its power.
One fisherman quoted by French news agency AFP even claimed three Jersey vessels had joined the demonstration, saying: ‘It’s even incredible to have succeeded in bringing all these people together.’
Simmering tensions between Britain and France over fishing rites boiled over this week after new rules came into force last week, meaning French vessels can no longer fish near the islands without a licence.
In order to qualify for a licence, French vessels had to submit evidence of their fishing routes and usual activities, with conditions written in to the licence matching those routes and fishing methods.
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.