Europe

Brexit fishing row: French fishermen in crisis after warning ‘we need Jersey’s waters’

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Fishing has emerged once more as a key sticking point in post-Brexit relations between the EU and France. The UK has risked the wrath of the French government after rejecting three quarters of applications from small French boats to fish in waters around Britain. Ministers announced that, out of 47 applications, just 12 licences were given, representing a blow to many French fishermen who rely on British waters. Jersey, one of the Channel Islands which has also been at the centre of a dispute surrounding fishing rights, is also confirming today that it will grant fewer licences, according to the Telegraph.

On Tuesday night, France’s Europe Minister threatened “retaliatory action”, while fishing leaders called the move “a declaration of war on the water and on the land”.

In May, French fishermen formed a blockade off Jersey’s main port, St Helier.

One of the boats that joined the protest was the Cap Lihou fishing boat, manned by its captain Baptiste Guenon.

Mr Guenon spoke to Sky News, and expressed fears that he would lose half of his business without more access to Jersey waters.

He said: “Jersey needs France in order to sell its produce. And we need them for 50 percent of the fishing waters we use.

“It’s an agreement that’s been in place for years and that they’ve broken.”

At the time, Jersey fishermen also voiced concerns over their future after the French retaliated by banning their counterparts from landing their catch and selling it at numerous ports along the Normandy and Brittany coastlines.

Louis Jackson, who owns The Fresh Fish Company based in Jersey, voiced concerns about escalation.

He said: “I’m worried about the future of the fishing industry in Jersey. Because of Brexit, we have a golden opportunity to change things and be on a more-than-even playing field.

“At the moment everything is geared towards the French.”

However, another fisherman expressed concern over delayed deadlines for EU boats’ access to waters around Jersey.

Tim Corson, a small boat fisherman who sells his lobster catch in France, told Yahoo News: “It’s just getting delayed, delayed, delayed. They’re extending it again, but what’s going to happen when that runs out?”

Jersey’s government said last Friday that some French vessels had provided enough evidence they had previously fished off the island.

Others still needed to submit more information and will only be granted a temporary permit until January 31 next year.

A third grouping will be refused licences altogether and must stop fishing in UK waters.

President of the Jersey Fishermen Association, Don Thompson, also told Yahoo that his initial optimism about Brexit has now turned into disappointment.

He said: “(It) was a chance to rebalance, to see some sort of equilibrium between the size of the Jersey fleet and the number of foreign boats working in our waters.”

Mr Thompson noted if nearly 169 French vessels are licensed, that would far outnumber the local fleet, claiming that only around 70 of them had previously fished in the area.

Meanwhile, fishermen Stephen Viney said: “The sustainability of our stock right now, this is not the best. It can’t take any more pressure.

“If we bring up extra boats into the area, you’ll end up with more and more pressure and everybody will lose because the restrictions will come in.

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“The ones that are entitled, who have got a track record of fishing here traditionally… nobody’s got a problem with them.”

Jersey, as well as Guernsey, is a self-governing territory and therefore didn’t vote in the 2016 referendum.

But both still depend on the UK for defence and international relations, meaning they have been dragged into the Brexit fishing dispute.

The EU and UK Brexit trade agreement will result in changes to the fishing quotas enjoyed by European vessels in British waters.

The deal ensures that 25 percent of EU boats’ fishing rights in UK waters will be transferred to the British fleet over a period of five years.

After that, annual negotiations will decide how the catch is shared out between the UK and EU, and Britain would have the right to completely exclude EU boats after 2026.

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