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France tells UK: ‘Starting a fishing feud won’t bring you turkeys for Christmas’

In signs that France was growing increasingly impatient with the UK, the country's Europe Minister told London on Friday that Brexit was "your failure, not ours" and that starting a fishing feud would not solve the problem of Christmas shortages.

A French fishing boat protests in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey in May 2021. Jersey is once again at the centre of a row over fishing licences.
A French fishing boat protests in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey in May 2021. Jersey is once again at the centre of a row over fishing licences. Photo: Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP.

France could reduce, but not entirely cut electricity supplies to the British crown dependency of Jersey this winter as part of “targeted” retaliation measures in a dispute over fishing, Europe Minister Clement Beaune told BFM-TV on Friday.

“Reducing supplies (of electricity to Jersey) is possible, but cutting the power to every Jersey resident this winter is something that will not happen and something that I do not want,” Beaune said.

Britain has refused to grant all the fishing licences sought by French boats as part of a post-Brexit access deal, leaving Paris furious and fishermen worried for their livelihoods.

Beaune had previously floated the idea of cutting power to the the British crown dependencies of the Channel Islands like Jersey which rely on nearby France for their energy.

A sequence of statements from Paris indicated that French patience on the issue had run out as bilateral disagreements on a host of issues seem to run out of control.

Beaune, seen as a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, urged Britain to stop penalising French fishermen for its domestic problems after Brexit.

“Stop telling us you do not need us anymore, stop being obsessed with us, stop believing that we will solve your problems,” he said.

“They made a mess of Brexit. It’s their choice and their failure, not ours. It was a bad choice, we see that today.

“It is not by creating problems for our fishermen… that you will solve the problems of shortages of Christmas turkey,” he said.

ANALYSIS: Why the new fishing row between France and UK could get nasty

France's Europe Minister Clement Beaune has accused the UK of 'creating problems' for French fishermen.

France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune has accused the UK of ‘creating problems’ for French fishermen. Photo: JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier had “negotiated the fact that we have an energy export deal, which means we can regulate the flows”, Beaune said, calling that option “a political possibility”.

But he added: “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

The minister said France had asked for 450 fishing licences but had only received 275. “We’re 40 percent short, but we insist on those 450,” he said.

“Britons need us to sell their products, including from fishing, they need us for their energy, for their financial services and for their research centres,” Beaune said.

“All of this gives us pressure points. We have the means to modulate the degree of our cooperation, to reduce it, if Britain does not implement the agreement,” he said.

“If they don’t do their share, then we won’t do 100 percent of our share either.”

‘Unacceptable’

Jersey on Thursday called France’s threat to cut power to the British crown dependency over fishing rights “unacceptable” and said it was unlikely to be carried out.

The threat was “disproportionate” and “unacceptable” and violated Britain’s post-Brexit treaty with the European Union, Jersey’s Minister for External Relations Ian Gorst told reporters via videolink.

Gorst said such a move would deprive 108,000 islanders of power, as well as Jersey’s hospital and schools.

“I do not believe therefore it will happen,” he said.

But should France carry out the threat after all, “we do have contingencies in place”, he said.

Fishing rights for EU boats in UK waters were a key stumbling block to negotiations for a post-Brexit trade accord between London and Brussels after Britain’s exit from the bloc on January 1st, 2021.

The dispute flared in May when a flotilla of around 50 French trawlers massed in front of the Saint Helier harbour on Jersey, a self-governing territory that along with fellow crown dependency Guernsey depends on Britain for its defence.

The protest sparked a tense standoff that even drew in French and British military vessels.

Since then, French fishermen have applied for the new access licences but complain of onerous paperwork and a requirement to prove they had fished in British and Jersey waters before Brexit, not always an easy task, especially for smaller boats.

Last week, Britain said it would grant just 12 out of 47 applications for new licences for small EU boats, while Jersey issued 64 full and 31 temporary licences but refused 75 applications.

“We’ve done everything we can to enable licenses to be issued to those vessels who can prove they’ve fished in our waters and we continue to do so,” Gorst said.

Member comments

  1. UK fishermen paid the price for the UK joining the Common Fisheries Policy. French fishermen ( amongst others ) will pay the price for the UK leaving the Common Fisheries Policy. That’s life.

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HEALTH

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.

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