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Fishing protests: French police vessels deployed to Jersey as UK sends gunboats

Two French police vessels were deployed to Jersey as French fishermen staged a protest over fishing licences - and the UK government sent two navy vessels to the area.

Fishing protests: French police vessels deployed to Jersey as UK sends gunboats
French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey. Photo: Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

Around 50 French fishing gathered to protest at the main port of the UK island of Jersey on Thursday morning amid fresh tensions between France and Britain.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday sent two Navy patrol vessels to Jersey “as a precautionary measure” over concerns that French fishermen could blockade its main port in an escalating post-Brexit row.

Two French vessels were also sent to the area – one from the coastal gendarmerie and one from the administrative Affaires Maritimes departments.

Neither of the French vessels were carrying weapons and they were there “guaranteeing the safeguarding of human life” in case rescues are necessary, said the Préfet maritime de la zone Manche-Mer du Nord, the local authority which authorised the deployment.

READ MORE: ‘We’re ready for war’ – How far will France’s post-Brexit fishing row with Jersey go?

After staging a blockade of the harbour, the French fishing vessels began to depart in the early afternoon, with The fishermen began departing from Jersey waters in the early afternoon of Thursday, with fisherman Ludovic Lazaro saying: “Now it’s up to the ministers to work it out. We won’t be able to do much more.”

Dimitri Rogoff, president of the Normandy fishing committee, said that “the show of force is over, now it’s politics that has to pick up the baton.”

France’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune said on Thursday that the British manoeuvres “should not impress us” adding: “I have spoken to David Frost, the British minister for relations with the European Union. Our desire is not to maintain tensions but to have a rapid and complete application of the agreement. Nothing but the agreement and the whole agreement.”

The French fishing boats massed in front of the port of Saint Helier to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

They say the post-Brexit fishing licenses they have been issues with contain restrictions not referenced in the agreement.

READ ALSO Why are French fishermen so angry about their post-Brexit licences?

Jersey, a self-governing British Crown dependency off the coast of France, has said it will require boats to submit further details before the licences can be granted, and pleaded for patience.

“It’s incredible to have succeeded in getting everyone together,” fisherman Camille Lecureuil told AFP onboard his boat.

The deepening row over fishing is one of several disputes that have emerged between the UK and the European Union since London left the bloc’s single market and customs union at the start of the year.

France warned on Tuesday it was weighing its response after the island of Jersey imposed rules governing access for French fishing boats near the islands, and said it could involve the electricity supply via underwater cables.

French maritime minister Annick Girardin accused Jersey, the largest Channel Island, of dragging its feet over the issuing of licences to French vessels under the terms of Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels.

HMS Severn is one of the two offshore patrol vessels that will monitor the Jersey waters. Photo: Glyn KIRK / AFP

British MP Tobias Ellwood accused France of “shameful behaviour,” saying “it would be wise to dispatch” a Royal Navy vessel.

PM Boris Johnson spoke to Jersey Chief Minister John Le Fondre on Wednesday, when the pair “stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions,” according to a statement from Downing Street.

“The Prime Minister underlined his unwavering support for Jersey,” it added.

A spokesman for Johnson’s government earlier called threats over Jersey’s electricity supply “unacceptable and disproportionate.”

ANALYSIS: ‘We’re ready for war’ – How far will France’s post-Brexit fishing row with Jersey go?

‘Optimistic’

Jersey External Affairs Minister Ian Gorst told BBC Radio on Wednesday: “It would seem disproportionate to cut off electricity for the sake of needing to provide extra details so that we can refine the licences.

“I do think a solution can be found. I am optimistic that we can provide extra time to allow this evidence to be provided.”

Paris and London have increasingly clashed over fishing in recent weeks, as French fishermen say they are being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licences.

On Thursday morning, around 100 French fishing vessels will sail to Jersey port to protest over the issuing of the licences, the head of fisheries for the Normandy region, Dimitri Rogoff, told AFP.

Rogoff said however that they would not try to blockade the port and would return to France in the afternoon.

In the latest move, Britain on Friday authorised 41 French ships equipped with Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) technology – which allows ships to be located – to fish in waters off Jersey.

But this list was accompanied by new demands which France’s fisheries ministry has said were not arranged or discussed with Paris, effectively creating new zoning rules for the waters near Jersey.

UK government minister Nadhim Zahawi said the two sides need to work “constructively” on “operational challenges that we need to fix together”.

“This is an issue for the (European) Commission to work with our team,” he told Sky News.

Member comments

  1. A couple of deep water trawlers will soon see off the gunboats like they did around Iceland in the cod wars.

  2. If the UK licensing process is wrong / unfair, how come there’s no complaint from the Dutch, Spanish, Irish etc. ?

    1. How do you know that there’s no complaints from other EU countries? The British media is notoriously anti-French and just loves to deride France at every opportunity. It’s curious that they’re not so keen to concentrate on Boris’s inability to stick to the agreements that he’s signed with the EU and is forever trying to weasel out of the conditions that he’s agreed to.

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POLITICS

French left under pressure over violence against women

Two key parties in France's left-wing alliance were Wednesday facing crises after senior figures were accused of violence against women, with a Greens party chief stepping back from his role days after a colleague from hard-left France Unbowed.

French left under pressure over violence against women

Julien Bayou was “suspended from his role” as co-president of the Greens’ bloc in the National Assembly (lower house), the party said late Tuesday, after he was accused of psychologically abusing an ex-partner.

“We are a feminist party, and so we place ourselves at the service of women’s testimony… we acknowledged that the only way to show we weren’t pretending and weren’t hiding was a temporary suspension,” Sandra Regol, vice-president of the Green MPs’ group, told broadcaster Franceinfo on Wednesday.

One of the most prominent MPs of France Unbowed (LFI) — allied with the Greens in a broad left alliance against President Emmanuel Macron — Adrien Quatennens on Sunday admitted to slapping his wife.

He stepped down from a senior role as party coordinator.

Party leader and three-time presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon leapt to Quatennens’ defence on Twitter, blasting “police ill-will, media voyeurism and the social networks” while hailing his protege’s “dignity” and “courage”.

It was not until hours later that Melenchon posted another message gesturing towards Quatennens’ wife — too late for many critics.

Macron’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Tuesday that it was “extremely shocking to have someone playing down domestic violence”.

And some 550 feminist activists on Wednesday co-signed an editorial in left-wing daily Liberation calling for Quatennens to resign his seat in parliament.

“When a political group supports a feminist programme, we have a right to expect that it stops protecting assaulters,” they wrote, listing a string of other left-wing figures who have been accused of assault and even rape.

“It’s not up to the assaulter’s friends to judge how serious the crime is and call for their private life to be respected. Private life is political.”

Both the Greens and LFI have set up internal panels to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

A report about Bayou was submitted to the ecologists’ panel in July, prompting allegations the probe had moved too slowly.”

These are volunteers working on cases that are sensitive by definition.

Calm and time are needed to gather testimony and take the necessary decisions,” said Marine Tondelier, expected to stand soon for leadership of the Greens.

Allegations that sexual harassment and even assault are rife in French politics stretch well beyond the left.

In July Damien Abad, a minister in centrist Macron’s freshly installed government, was forced to step down over rape allegations.

He denies the claims and has since returned to his seat in parliament.

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