On Thursday morning, more than 50 French fishing boats gathered near the port of Jersey’s capital St Helier to protest post-Brexit fishing rights. In response to this the UK sent two Royal Navy patrol ships to Jersey, a British Crown Dependency, as a “precautionary measure”. Tension then escalated as France deployed two of their maritime patrol boats to the waters.
The standoff came to an end when the flotilla of French fishing trawlers vacated the area on Thursday. Dimitri Rogoff, who heads a group of French fishermen, told The Associated Press that the action was a peaceful protest not an attempt to blockade the port “This wasn’t an act of war,” Rogoff said. “It’s an act of protest.”
Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands with a population of 108,000. It is geographically closer to France than Britain at just 14 miles off the French coast and receives most of its electricity from France via undersea cables.
Post Brexit there has been a long running dispute between France and England over the fishing rights in Jerseys waters. The French government had previously suggested it would cut the electricity supply to Jersey if its fishermen were not granted full access to the fishing waters under post-Brexit trading terms.
As the French fishing trawlers left the port at St Heliers the UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson tweeted that the “situation in Jersey has been resolved” and pledged that the UK “will always stand resolutely by the people of Jersey. His statement also said that the UK remains “on standby” in the event officials in Jersey require assistance again.
Jersey’s government stated that they had issued new fishing permits in accordance with the post-Brexit trade terms. These included new European Union conditions for the French boat operators to now show a history of fishing in the area before they can receive a license to fish in Jersey’s waters.
However these conditions angered the French trawler crews and the French government. They claimed the new terms had been imposed unilaterally and without discussion and placed unfair restrictions on French fishing vessels.
The E.U. appeared backed France in the dispute as they said that until further justifications had been provided by Britain, Jersey officials should not be attaching new conditions to the issuing of licenses. European Commission spokeswoman Vivian Loonela said that “Full compliance with the TCA (Brexit trade deal) is essential in this process.”
Jersey officials said that they would be meeting with representatives of the French protesters to listen to their concerns.
Source: NBC News