French fisherman warns of 'never-ending war' with Jersey
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Anyone who followed the EU/UK divorce saga will remember fishing rights were one of the final and biggest sticking points of the Brexit agreement. While fishing is a minuscule section of the economy for the UK and the European Union, it carries hugely significant political weight. Regaining control over UK waters was a key part of the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, backed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove. The deal that was agreed to, by both sides, on Christmas Eve last year contained an entire section and several annexes dedicated entirely to fisheries. Both the UK Government and EU have agreed 25 percent of the former’s fishing rights in UK waters be transferred to the UK fishing fleet over a period fo five years.
This is known as the ‘adjustment period’ and is designed to give EU fleets ample time to get accustomed to the new arrangements.
The EU wanted the adjustment period to surpass five years, while the UK wanted a shorter timeframe, and under plans outlined in the deal European fishing quotas in UK waters will reduce 15 percent in the first year and 2.5 percentage points each year after.
By 2025, UK boats are predicted to have access to an extra £145million of fishing quotas every year.
When the adjustment period ends on June 30, 2026, there will be annual talks to set the amount that EU fishing fleets can catch in UK waters.
What is happening in Jersey?
The French Government has warned it could cut electricity to Jersey amid a rapidly escalating disagreement over fishing rights after Brexit.
France’s Maritime Minister Annick Girardin told parliament in Paris that new rules governing access to Channel Islands waters were unacceptable, saying France was “ready to use retaliatory measures”.
Ms Girardin added: “I am sorry that it has come to this [but] we will do so if we have to.”
Jersey, the biggest of the Channel Islands, gets the vast majority (95 percent) of its electricity through three underwater cables coming in from France.
The row is understood to have started after the UK introduced “new technical measures” linked to licences for fishing off the Channel Islands – a move which hadn’t been communicated to the EU.
French fisherman have complained of not being able to fish in British waters due to difficulties in obtaining documentation.
To receive a licence under agreement with the EU, French boat operators have to show a history of fishing within the area.
Jersey is the only authority that can issue the licences, and as of last week declared all fishing boats have to have one if they want to work in the area.
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A spokesperson from the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said: “We are clear that Jersey is responsible for its own territorial waters.”
On Friday last week, the Jersey Government granted 41 permits to French fishing boats that are equipped with GPS technology.
But the French government claims the list of approved ships came with further demands that “were not arranged or discussed, and which we were not notified about”.
Ms Girardin said the new rules dictated “where the ships can go and cannot go” as well as limiting the number of days fisherman can spend in the area.
The French fishing minister added: “This is absolutely unacceptable, and if we accept this for Jersey, it would imperil our access everywhere.”
Last week, France’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune accused Britain of blocking fishing rights in general, saying the EU could respond with “reprisals” in an array of financial services.
At the same time, British seafood exporters have been slapped with an EU ban on UK exports of live shellfish such as mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops.
The UK has also failed to strike a new fishing agreement with Norway, threatening to prevent British trawlers from catching cod in Norway’s sub-Arctic territory.
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