Fishing agreement is not working for Jersey says Thompson
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The tensions stem from a dispute over how the UK-EU trade agreement should be implemented, with France claiming that the UK has broken the December 2020 Brexit agreement by only granting 200 fishing licences to French fishermen. Two hundred and 30 fishing licences are still pending.
The final deadline for validation of these licences is October 30, after which time the French government has said it will implement sanctions against the UK.
But Don Thompson, head of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, told ITV News the Government’s decision to grant even 100 new fishing licences to French crews is a “death warrant” for the island’s own fishing industry, suggesting some fishermen face “certain bankruptcy”.
Emmanuel Macron has called on ministers to consider possible retaliatory measures, which would be applied at the start of November if there are still fishermen without licences.
According to French newspaper Le Figaro, possible sanctions could include an electricity tariff on the supply of energy to Jersey, which is supplied by France, or the restriction of British access to French ports.
This would negatively impact upon British fishermen because they often rely on the ports to sell their fished goods.
Protectionist measures, such as the introduction of customs surcharges on British goods sent to the EU via the Channel Tunnel, are also being considered.
But this type of sanction is the direct responsibility of the European common market and the final decision therefore lies with Brussels.
An adviser to the French Minister of the Sea, Annick Gardin, described the relationship with the UK as “well-deteriorated”.
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She said: “We appealed to the Commission to take over the sanctions proposed by Paris.
“The idea is to have sanctions at European level.
“We’re walking on eggshells. We will have to stay within proportionate sanctions so as not to further affect the already well-deteriorated relationship with the United Kingdom.”
Tensions between the UK and France on this issue only intensified when, in the latest round of applications, the UK granted just 12 licences from 47 bids for smaller vessels to fish in its territorial waters.
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Meanwhile, Jersey refused licences to 75 French fishing boats.
Overall, the UK has granted 117 EU licences for its inshore territorial waters and almost 1,700 EU vessels have been licensed to fish in the larger UK exclusive economic area, which stretches 200 nautical miles from shore.
Jersey became a flashpoint for tensions over fishing rights in May, when two Royal Navy ships were sent to patrol the area after French fishermen staged a protest outside the port of St Helier.
The fishermen complained about being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licences.
The row led Ms Girardin to threaten to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply – 95 percent of which is delivered by three underwater cables from France.
According to French newspaper Le Monde, Ms Girardin said: “French fishing must not be taken hostage by the British for political ends.
“It is a new refusal of the British to apply the conditions of the Brexit accord despite all the work undertaken together.
“I have only one watchword; to obtain definitive licences for our fishermen as the accord foresees.”
A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the UK’s approach “has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA)”.
“The government has granted 98% of licence applications from EU vessels to fish in our waters.
“The TCA requires that EU vessels seeking to fish in the UK’s 6-12nm zone must have a history of fishing activity between 2012 and 2016. The UK requested evidence of this activity from the European Commission, receiving some and repeatedly seeking more, even purchasing commercially available positioning data to build a complete picture.
“We continue to work with the European Commission and French authorities and remain open to considering any further evidence that supports the remaining licence applications”.
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