Monday, 25 Oct 2021

Royal Marines to seize control of French vessels blockading port, warns ex-Navy head

Jersey: French boats protest in St Helier port waters

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A former First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy has warned that Royal Marines could be used to seize French fishing boats attempting to blockade Jersey. It comes after vessels from France attempted to block entry to the port of St Helier in a protest over access to fishing waters after Brexit. Two Royal Navy vessels HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, have been sent in to “monitor the situation” and Lord West said the ships will be ready to launch “boarding parties” if required.

Lord West told Times Radio: “They no doubt have on board Royal Marine boarding parties and we are used to boarding foreign vessels and indeed UK vessels.

“We have done that over many years, if you go back to the Icelandic cod wars.

“So they will be working very hard to try to defuse any situations.

“But you can’t allow the vessels of another country to blockade one of our ports.

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He continued “In the final analysis, if they actually did block it, then we would have to do something to unblock it.”

“If they wanted to move a couple of fishing boats, you would no doubt be boarded by Marines and you would arrest the people involved and then hand them over to the local police to be dealt with,” he said.

“After you have arrested some, their boats are impounded and that’s normally the thing that makes fishermen be very careful.

“If you lose all your fishing gear and your boat, that is an extremely expensive and catastrophic thing so they are normally very wary about that.

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Lord West added: “But let’s hope we don’t get to that level.

“It’s absolutely extraordinary that we have got to this level so quickly.”

 “I would hope that sense will prevail and people will take a step back and actually look at the details of this deal and finally of course, it’s up to getting lawyers involved if they are disputing the details of the deal.

“It’s quite extraordinary to make threats of blockading, of cutting off power supplies, that really is rather sort of a 19th Century way of behaving rather than a 21st Century way of behaving.”

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It comes as Jersey fishermen described the actions of the French trawlers surround St Heliers Port as “like an invasion”.

One trawlerman, Josh Dearing said: “There were probably about 60 boats.

“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.

“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.”

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