French-UK fishing row sees former Swedish PM take aim at ‘rampant nationalism’

Jersey: French boats protest in St Helier port waters

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Sweden’s former leader Carl Bildt has weighed into the row between Paris and London over fishing stocks in the Channel. French fishermen have been mounting noisy protests in response to new post-Brexit maritime measures which it is argued have restricted their access to fishing waters around the island of Jersey. Mr Bildt blamed the dispute on “rampant nationalism” when he was invited to discuss fishing rights on TimesRadio.

Mr Bildt told Times Radio: “My experience as Prime Minister in the past is there virtually no international negotiations that cannot be broken down by fisheries issues.

“I mean there are few issues that are as poisonous because even if fish is a very small component of the economy of whichever nation it is associated with a lot of feelings. 

“So you had a lot of strong emotions from the UK Government side certainly on ‘it’s our fish’ and I think it was someone who said the fish are now happier in UK waters than they were before.

“And the French think that the French fish are happier and I mean it is a subject where nationalism runs very rampant.”

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The former Swedish PM added: “I don’t know if the fish are to be blamed for this but that is a fact.”

“It is a fishy business,” remarked TimesRadio host Tom Newton-Dunn with glee.

The UK Channel Islands have become the focus of an international dispute between Britain and France over fishing rights.

Earlier this month French fishermen launched an attempted blockade of Jersey’s main harbor before being driven away by Royal Navy patrol vessels.

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Meanwhile, post-Brexit fishing tensions have spilled over into the Irish sea as Ireland finds other EU countries looking to net a catch in the countries rich waters.

A Spanish trawler has been caught on camera ramming an Irish vessel of Bantry Bay off the island’s southern coast.

Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation, Patrick Murphy, said: “This was an attempt to force Irish boats off our own fishing grounds. It is intimidation.

“Our authorities must take action against this vessel acting extremely dangerously at sea and endangering life.

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“It is appalling. This was a threat to life at sea, so action must be taken against the vessel which tried to do the ramming.

“The Spanish boat should be arrested and stopped from fishing in Irish waters.”

In a statement, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) said: “The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority are aware of a situation that arose when a Spanish registered vessel was encountered by an Irish-registered vessel operating within the waters of Bantry Bay and therefore within the IRL 12-nautical mile limit.

“The situation continues to be closely monitored by the National Fisheries Monitoring Centre at the Naval Base, Haulbowline.”

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