(LONDON) JUST IN: Two Royal Navy vessels are patrolling waters around Jersey as about 60 French and Jersey boats protest over post-Brexit fishing rights #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – May.06: France has threatened to cut off electricity to the island: No 10 said it sent the two Navy vessels to “monitor the situation”.

LONDON: PM Boris Johnson sends two UK Royal Navy ships to patrol Jersey amid fishing row with France: French fishermen, who have gathered at the island’s main St Helier port, say their rights are unfairly restricted by licences issued by the island under a system launched last week as Jersey officials say that they were agreed under the deal and French officials say they will cut off electricity and food supplies to the island’ Live updates: Latest on protest in St Helier

23 minutes ago

By George Bowden & Emma Harrison
BBC News

French fishing boats at the port of St Helier
About 60 French and Jersey boats are at the entrance to the island’s main port of St Helier

HMS Severn, which has previously been used to shadow Russian navy warships off the English coast, and HMS Tamar, arrived on Thursday morning.

The ships are routinely used for fisheries protection – with sailors able to board other boats for spot checks.

The new fishing rules – introduced by the Jersey government under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – require French boats to show they have a history of fishing in Jersey’s waters. But it has been claimed additional requirements were added without notice so who really owns UK fishing rights?

French authorities say “new technical measures” had not been communicated to the EU, rendering them “null and void”.

The fishing boats are at the entrance to the island’s main port of St Helier, but they pulled away earlier to allow a freight vessel to leave. 

HMS Severn can be seen from the port, sitting off about a mile from the French boats and is maintaining a presence and not making any effort to intervene.

At the scene: ‘Red flares burning bright’

By Freddie Miller, BBC Jersey political reporter

In the darkness you could see the lights from boats slowly making their way from the direction of France towards Jersey. They then all gathered outside the St Helier harbour and they stayed there for about half an hour.

At about 06:30 BST they started making their way slowly into the harbour. Flares were set off – red flares, orange flares, burning bright. French flags were being flown, there were banners talking about fishing obviously in French.

Meanwhile, on the pier-side where I am, islanders had gathered – probably about 30 in total, including a couple of police officers. Jersey flags had been hung to the railings of the pier, some were waving flags.

There were also some Jersey boats in support of the French, flying both French and Jersey flags, and also a couple that were there trying to stop the French from coming into the harbour.

Amidst all of this you’ve got the two Navy vessels in the distance – you can just see the outline shadow of them through the mist, just keeping watch of everything.”

MEP Stephanie Yon-Courtin, a member of the EU fisheries committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme they were “taken by surprise” by new fishing rules, adding: “We are counting on the good faith from Jersey and the UK government to help and deescalate the tension.”

Of the threats to cut off electricity to Jersey, she said “these are only words we are not ready for war”, but she added “all retaliatory measures will be explored”.

On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged his “unwavering support” for Jersey, the largest Channel Island and a Crown dependency, located 14 miles (22km) off France and “any blockade” would be “completely unjustified”. 

HMS Severn is one of the two offshore patrol vessels monitoring Jersey waters

At the scene: ‘More shock than anger’

Their boats were draped with makeshift banners – which read “en colère”- we are angry, writes BBC Europe correspondent Jean Mackenzie, who was with the fishermen as they set off from the French coast.

A handful left this small port on the Normandy coast about 02:30, to be joined by dozens more on the way to Jersey. The fishermen seemed more shocked than angry, that their access to waters they have fished in for decades is being challenged.

What does the Brexit trade deal mean for fishing? Under the post-Brexit trade deal, Jersey has to allow European vessels into its waters, but they now need licences – but the fishermen say the permits have come with a long list of restrictions that were never agreed.

Reacting to the French maritime minister’s threat to cut off Jersey’s electricity in retaliation – the fishermen were pleased.

“It’s good to know our country is on our side,” they said

Mr Johnson held talks with Jersey’s Chief Minister John Le Fondré and Minister of External Affairs Ian Gorst, and “stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions” between Jersey and France.

Senator Gorst told the BBC the French threats were “disproportionate” but he was expecting a “peaceful demonstration” by fisherman on Thursday morning. 

A statement from the Jersey government read: “Diplomatic efforts will continue to resolve the outstanding issues relating to fishing licences and to de-escalate the situation.”

Dimitri Rogoff, head of fisheries for the Normandy region, said the boats would not try to block St Helier and would return to France in the afternoon, AFP reported.

What is the Jersey fishing row about?

French fishermen have complained about being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licences. 

Under an agreement with the EU, French boat operators must show a history of fishing in the area to receive a licence for Jersey’s waters. But it has been claimed additional requirements were added without notice.

Jersey has the sole power to issue the licences, and as of last week all fishing boats were required to have a licence to operate there.

On Friday, the Jersey government granted 41 permits to French fishing vessels that are equipped with technology that allows them to be located.

But the French government claimed the list of approved ships came with further demands that “were not arranged or discussed, and which we were not notified about”.

Chris Le Masurier, who runs Jersey Oyster and Normandy Trader Freight, said the French fisherman were rightly upset by the situation.

He said: “I see it as very much an insult to them and they are extremely upset. The criteria that they were given was to prove they have fished in Jersey waters for 10 days. Nothing about what species were caught, nothing about if you’ve fished for 20 days or 30 days [and having to] prove that.” 

But Don Thompson, from the Jersey Fisherman’s Association, said affected French crews have “had since 1 January” to comply with the new rules and “perhaps some of the boats that perhaps didn’t qualify are a little bit put-out”.

The threat to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply – 95% of which is delivered by three underwater cables from France – was made by French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin on Tuesday.

HMS Severn and HMS Tamar are based in Portsmouth. They are both 90.5m in length, have two large guns, including a short-range anti-aircraft weapon, and are crewed by 45 sailors and up to 50 Royal Marines.

Additional reporting by Robert Hall, BBC News

#AceNewsDesk report …..Published: May.06: 2021:

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