France threatens UK energy supply in ongoing row over post-Brexit fishing rights

·3-min read
French fishing vessels protested outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey (Gary Grimshaw/Bailiwick Express/PA) (PA Media)
French fishing vessels protested outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey (Gary Grimshaw/Bailiwick Express/PA) (PA Media)

France has again threatened to cut the UK off from energy supplies, as it attempts to put pressure on London over sticking to the Brexit deal.

France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune told French radio station Europe 1 that the agreement should be “implemented fully” and that if it is not, “we will take European or national measures to exert pressure on the UK”.

Asked what actions could be taken, Mr Beaune pointed to both UK exports to France and European energy exports to the UK.

He said: “The UK depends on our energy exports, they think they can live alone while also beating up on Europe and, given that it doesn’t work, they engage in aggressive one-upmanship.”

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

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

Jersey gets 95% of its electricity supply from France.

While a document released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in July this year said that, as of 2020, just under half of the UK’s electricity imports (47%) were from France.

HMS Severn returns to Portsmouth from Jersey after it was scrambled to the protest by French fishermen over fishing rights (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)
HMS Severn returns to Portsmouth from Jersey after it was scrambled to the protest by French fishermen over fishing rights (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)

Last week France angrily accused Jersey of “totally unacceptable and inadmissible” conduct after it rejected applications for licences to fish its territorial waters from dozens of French boats.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said: “These decisions are totally unacceptable and inadmissible.”

He said the ruling ran counter to the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) which Britain signed with the EU and that France would seek support from Brussels for potential “retaliatory measures”.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Government of Jersey said: “Jersey has followed the process set down by the Trade and Co-operation Agreement throughout the process of allocating licences.

“We have worked to ensure that boats which can show evidence of fishing in Jersey’s waters are able to continue doing so, and we remain open to receiving further evidence of fishing activity.

“We are continuing to work collaboratively to resolve the remaining issues.

“Jersey’s electricity service is underpinned by a long-term contract with EDF and we do not anticipate any interruptions in supply.”

It came after the Government in London announced that it had approved just 12 of the 47 applications it had received from French small boats to fish in British waters.

Previous tensions with France over fishing rights prompted Navy ships to be scrambled to Jersey amid concerns of a blockade of the island.

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