Boris Johnson has sent two Royal Navy vessels to patrol the waters of Jersey after dozens of French boats gathered near the island’s main port in protest over post-Brexit fishing rights.
HMS Severn and HMS Tamar have been deployed by the UK government to “monitor the situation” surrounding the Channel Island amid concerns of a possible blockade at the port of St Helier.
Flares were set of by some crews of the French fishing vessels that gathered near the harbour on Thursday morning, in protest against a new post-Brexit licensing system implemented last week.
French maritime minister Annick Girardin warned on Tuesday that the country is ready to take “retaliatory measures” and accused Jersey of dragging its feet over issuing new licences to French boats.
The prime minister spoke to Jersey chief minister John Le Fondre and external affairs minister Ian Gorst on Wednesday, and “underlined his unwavering support” for the island.
Watch: French boats protest in Jersey harbour over post-Brexit fishing rights
Paris has warned it could cut off power to the island, which receives 95% of its electricity from France through three undersea cables.
Downing Street said the two Royal Navy ships were sent as a “precautionary measure” and the UK and Jersey governments would continue to work closely on the issue.
Here’s what the two gunships look like…
One of three offshore patrol vessels ploughing the seas around the UK almost every day of the year, HMS Severn was built in 2002 and patrolled home and overseas waters for 14 years before being decommissioned in 2017.
However, in March 2018 — six months after being decommissioned — the Ministry of Defence announced that £12.7m had been allocated from the EU Exit Preparedness Fund to preserve the 80 metre-long Severn and her two sister ships.
The 1,700-tonne vessel was recommissioned in the event that it should be required to control and enforce UK waters and fisheries following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
In July 2020, HMS Severn, whose armament includes a 20mm cannon and two machine guns, officially returned to operations.
The fourth of the five new Offshore Patrol Vessels being built to replace the current River Class vessels, HMS Tamar was officially commissioned into service in December 2020.
The primary roles of the vessel, which weighs 2,000 tonnes and is over 90 metres in length, is to intercept drug-traffickers and smugglers.
With a 30mm small calibre gun, two machine guns and two miniguns, Tamar also serves to protect UK territorial waters and provide humanitarian assistance in the wake of a disaster.
Last month, Tamar became the first Royal Navy warship to be painted in dazzle camouflage since the Second World War.
Watch: Gove: UK will do 'whatever is required' to protect fishing