Jersey fishing row: France challenged on breaching Brexit deal over power threat

Brexit: EU making Jersey fishing deals difficult says Thompson

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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. This left Paris furious and fishermen worried for their livelihoods with French ministers threatening the UK and Channel Islands with sanctions on electricity supplies.

Now Jersey’s External Relations Minister said the French Government would be breaching the Brexit deal the EU agreed with the UK in Christmas 2020 if action was taken.

Speaking during a press conference on Friday evening, Ian Gorst added: “Let me be clear.

“We are abiding by the terms of the trade deal and we call upon all parties to that agreement to abide by that trade deal as well.

“The disproportionate threats we have heard – for example, to cut off Jersey’s electricity (which would cut off an energy supply to 108,000 Islanders, to our hospital and to our schools), would be in breach of the trade agreement, would be entirely disproportionate and is inappropriate.

“Let us deal with the issue that is fishers providing [data] to receive their licences.”

Jersey gets 95 percent of its electricity supply from France, with just under half of the UK’s electricity imports, as of 2020, coming from the same source.

Paris ministers on Friday appeared to wind down the threats on cutting full power supplies.

This is despite a sequence of statements from Paris indicating that French patience on the issue had run out as bilateral disagreements on a host of issues seem to spiral out of control.

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Instead, French Europe Minister Clement Beaune said France could reduce, but not entirely cut electricity supplies to Jersey.

He told BFM-TV in an interview. “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.”

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

He added: “Stop telling us you do not need us anymore, stop being obsessed with us, stop believing that we will solve your problems.

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

The cross-Channel tensions over fishing have been long-running, with earlier rows leading to Navy ships being scrambled to Jersey amid concerns of a blockade of the island.

It is also not the first time the French have used the energy supply threat to try to gain ground in the Brexit row.

In May, French minister Annick Girardin warned France was ready to take “retaliatory measures” after accusing Jersey of dragging its feet over the issuing of licences to French boats under the terms of the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal.

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