Jersey agrees to extend licences for French fishermen after post-Brexit row

·2-min read

Jersey says it has agreed to a three-month extension to post-Brexit transition arrangements to allow "certain French vessels" to carry on fishing in the Channel Island's waters while difficult negotiations over future licences continue.

“The EU has recently requested an extension to the transitional arrangements, which had been due to come to an end on June 30th,” a statement from the Jersey government said, adding that “Jersey Ministers have agreed to that request.”

The request was made by France’s maritime minister on 12 May and the three-month extension should “allow the continuation of discussions", Ian Gorst, Jersey's Minister for External Relations, said in the statement.

The tiny island of Jersey, 19km off the coast of France, is a British crown dependency but is not part of the UK.

Nevertheless, the rights to fish off its coastlines have become entangled with post-Brexit negotiations on the rights of French fishermen.

Under the new fishing licences introduced at the end of April, French fishing vessels have to provide data showing they have a history of fishing in Jersey’s waters.

French authorities claimed these additional post-Brexit rules were added on without notice, and many French fishermen say their small boats do not carry the electronic equipment to provide the information.

Blockades and reprisals

In early May, the issue of fishing licences turned into a full-scale maritime dispute. Around 60 French fishing vessels staged a blockade of the harbour in the Jersey capital of St Helier to protest against the new licensing system and the UK government responded by sending two Royal Navy gunships.

As tension escalated, France’s Maritime Minister Annick Girardin threatened to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply – around 95 percent of which is cabled through from France.

France said it was ready to take reprisals unless a post-Brexit deal on fishing rights was implemented.

Tension was defused after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Emmanuel Macron recently agreed an interim accord, but that two-month extension was due to expire on 30 June.

Under the revised transitional arrangements agreed by Jersey “the already licensed boats with Vessel Monitoring System equipment (47), and a reduced number of small EU vessels (177 applicants), for which evidence is already being submitted, [are allowed] to continue to fish in Jersey waters”.

The amnesty means that until the end of September there will be a suspension on setting the number of days previously fished in Jersey waters and the type of gear used as conditions for access.

(with newswires)

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