Boris Johnson urges ‘de-escalation’ in France-Jersey fishing row

LONDON — Boris Johnson urged France and Jersey to find a solution to an increasingly bitter row over fishing, hours after Paris threatened to cut electricity supply to the British crown dependency.

Downing Street announced Wednesday evening that the U.K. government would be sending two offshore patrol vessels to the waters surrounding Jersey “to monitor the situation,” and said any blockade of ports by French fishing boats in the Channel Islands would be “completely unjustified.”

The threat to pull the plug on Jersey’s electricity, which came from French Sea Minister Annick Girardin, is the latest escalation in a spat between France and the U.K. over post-Brexit fishing licenses.

French fishermen are struggling to obtain licenses allowing them to keep working in U.K. waters, including in Jersey. They must show they have been fishing in these waters from 2012 to 2016 using GPS data, which some don’t have. Retaliatory protests in France have included threats to block the port of Calais, as well as blocking fish arriving from British waters. 

The U.K. prime minister stressed his “unwavering support” for Jersey in an evening phone call with John Le Fondré, chief minister of Jersey, and Ian Gorst, minister of external affairs, according to a statement issued by Downing Street on Wednesday night.

Johnson was said to have stressed the “urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions and for dialogue between Jersey and France on fishing access.”

“He said that any blockade would be completely unjustified,” the No.10 statement read. “As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two Offshore Patrol Vessels to monitor the situation.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Girardin said that as France depends on Britain for fish, Jersey needs French electricity to fry it. 

“As you know, the [Brexit] agreement contains retaliatory measures … So as far as Jersey is concerned, I would remind you, for example, of the transport of electricity via submarine cables. So we have the means, and even though I’m sorry it has come to this, we will do so if we have to,” she told the French parliament

Earlier Wednesday, Gorst said a power cut to the self-governing U.K. dependency, just 22 kilometers off the French coast, would be a “disproportionate” response to a row about fishing.

“This is not the first threat that the French have made,” Gorst said, “to either Jersey or to the United Kingdom” since the Brexit deal was struck. “This is a new deal, there were always going to be teething problems.”

Marina Adami contributed reporting



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