Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021

Boris holds urgent call with Jersey chief – Royal Navy to stay on standby in France threat

Jersey fisherman calls on UK government to not 'capitulate'

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Britain sent Royal Navy gunboats to the area last night and this morning in response to threats from French fishermen threatening to blockade access to St Helier Port. As many as 100 French boats gathered off the island’s capital in protest at post-Brexit fishing rules which require a licence to catch within Jersey’s 12 mile zone.

Mr Johnson “reiterated his unequivocal support” to the Channel Island in a phone call to the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, and Minister of External Affairs this morning.

Discussing how Britain would respond to the unfolding situation, the Prime Minister vowed the Royal Navy ships would remain in Jersey as a precaution for as long as necessary.

A Downing Street spokesperson 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.”

HMS Severn and HMS Tamar were deployed by the Government after talks with Jersey officials yesterday.

In response, France has also sent two vessels of its own to the area.

Phone calls have been held by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab with his French counterpart to urge an immediate de-escalation of tensions.

Despite the stand off, protests by the fishermen at the port are said to have been peaceful and the Royal Navy ships did not need to engage.

Dimitri Rogoff, who heads a group of Normandy fishermen, insisted they were not seeking to blockade the port.

He said: “This isn’t an act of war. It’s an act of protest.”

However, Jersey fisherman Josh Dearing described the appearance of the French boats as “like an invasion”.

He said: “The French can be hostile. All of our livelihoods are in that harbour and if they wanted to they could cause damage.

“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.”

The dispute follows claims that Jersey has failed to grant fishing licences to EU boats as required under the Brexit trade agreement.

However, the Channel Island rejects the accusations and insists all those who submitted the correct paperwork have been issued a licence.

It says there are just 19 ships that have not yet been granted approval to fish in Jersey’s waters.

More to follow…

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