Thursday 6 May 2021 2:57 pm

British gunboats will continue to patrol Jersey as French fishing boats leave

Two British naval ships will remain off the coast of Jersey and patrol the waters, after a flotilla of 60 French fishing boats ended their protest this afternoon.

Two armed Royal Navy boats, the HMS Tamar and HMS Severn, were sent by Boris Johnson last night to patrol waters around Jersey amid a protest by French fishermen against new post-Brexit rules at the port of St Helier.

In a tit-for-tat move, French President Emmanuel Macron deployed French naval boats of his own, escalating tensions.

The protesting fishermen decided to leave around 2pm UK time, with one telling the French Ouest-France newspaper that the issue “can only be sorted out on dry land now”.

On Wednesday, France threatened to cut power to the island if the country’s fishermen are not granted full post-Brexit access to UK waters.

French fishermen have sailed in a flotilla to the Channel island to register their protest at restrictions on their access today.

In a statement released today, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister spoke to the chief minister of Jersey, Senator John Le Fondré, the deputy chief minister, Lyndon Farnham and the minister of external affairs, Ian Gorst this morning. 

“The chief minister updated the Prime Minister on the latest developments with French fishing vessels around Jersey’s coast.

“The Prime Minister reiterated his unequivocal support for Jersey and confirmed that the two Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels would remain in place to monitor the situation as a precautionary measure.” 

It comes after France’s maritime minister told the country’s National Assembly that Jersey had unilaterally imposed restrictions on how much time French fishing vessels could spend in its waters.

Annick Giardin believes it is in contravention to the UK-EU post-Brexit trade deal, however Jersey has accused the French government of making “disproportionate” threats against them.

“In the [Brexit] deal there are retaliatory measures. Well, we’re ready to use them,” she said.

“Regarding Jersey, I remind you of the delivery of electricity along underwater cables…even if it would be regrettable if we had to do it, we’ll do it if we have to.”

Around 95 per cent of Jersey’s electricity comes from France, with diesel generators and gas turbines providing backup.

Jersey is asking for French fishermen to provide GPS evidence that they have previously fished in the island’s waters in order to get renewed fishing licences.

Jersey external relations minister Ian Gorst said that of the 41 French boats seeking approval last Friday that only 17 were knocked back.

“We are entering a new era and it takes time for all to adjust. Jersey has consistently shown its commitment to finding a smooth transition to the new regime,” Horst said.

Brussels today backed France in the escalating row.

A European Commission spokesperson said: “Any proposed management conditions have to be notified in advance to the other party, giving them sufficient time to assess and react to the proposed measures.

“Until the UK authorities provide further justifications on the new conditions, these new conditions should not apply.”