Brexit: EU making Jersey fishing deals difficult says Thompson
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Just months after French vessels surrounded its main port in a row over access, the Crown dependency granted licences to fewer than the 170 requested by France. French fishermen have previously threatened to cut electricity supplies to the Channel isle in the feud. Jersey authorities issued just 64 full licences and 31 temporary passes, on top of the 47 vessels already licensed earlier this year.
The 74 French vessels refused access have been given 30 days’ notice before they are completely shut out of Jersey’s waters.
Jersey’s environment minister said: “We are pleased that, following our requests, more data was recently supplied. This means we’re now in a position to prepare to issue these additional permits for qualifying boats, along with the provisional permissions for the vessels on the brink of providing the required evidence.
“By issuing these licences in the days ahead, we are ensuring the fishing effort in our waters is similar to pre-Brexit – those boats with an economic dependance on Jersey waters, who’ve fished here regularly before and have demonstrated it, will receive licences. We’ve been flexible in the kinds of positional evidence we’ve accepted, using VMS information, commercially available Automatic Identification System data, logbooks, chart plotters and other written information.
“The issue of ‘replacement vessels’ is still to be resolved, and we’re aware they are important to the industry as boats are regularly commissioned and decommissioned. There are a small number of these applicant vessels which require further consideration, and they will be allowed to continue operating in our waters for now while we continue discussions about how ‘replacement vessels’ should be managed.”
And external relations minister Ian Gorst added: “Jersey has maintained a pragmatic, reasonable and evidence-based approach throughout, extending the transitional period on a number of occasions until now, despite not being required by the TCA to do so.
“We’re now in a position to ensure those boats which have fished these waters are able to continue doing so, and therefore it is time, next month, for our transitional arrangements to come to a close.
“We thank the UK, EU and authorities in France for their efforts to provide us with the additional data, and I’m keen to pay tribute to the tireless work of our officers to pursue the information, collate it and analyse it. We will continue to have an open door to further data and evidence of fishing activity, including for vessels which have already been considered, and we look forward to working collaboratively to resolve the remaining complex issues.”
It comes after the UK Government granted just 12 licences under 12 metres in length, out of 47 applications, to use Britain’s coastal waters.
Royal Navy gunships have been called up to guard against potential French threats to shipping routes and energy supplies.
It is feared that spurned French vessels could blockade Dover and Jersey again within days.
Boats needed to have made at least one fishing trip to the area per fear for at least four out of the five years to qualify.
But many were rejected under the new strict, post-Brexit criteria.
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UK Government officials insist that the licences were granted based on the French vessels’ historical links to our fishing grounds.
One insider said the UK had “bent over backwards to be as generous as we could be”, according to the Telegraph.
A spokesman added: “The government has this year issued a large number of licences to EU vessels seeking to fish in our exclusive economic zone (12-200 nautical mile zone) and our territorial sea (6-12 nautical mile zone). Our approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
“As regards the 6-12nm zone, as set out in the TCA, EU vessels must provide evidence of a track record of fishing activity in those waters. We have been considering applications for vessels of under 12 m in length to fish in this zone and, on the basis of the evidence available, we are able to grant licences for 12 of the 47 applications made.
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“We continue to work with the Commission and the French authorities and will consider any further evidence provided to support the remaining licence applications.”
But France was calling for “retaliatory action” against Britain as the Anglo-French relationship took another turn for the worse.
Its Europe minister Clement Beaune fumed: “We will not hesitate to take retaliatory action, collectively.
“We understand and share the exasperation of our fishermen.
“We cannot cooperate in confidence with the UK while the deal is not respected.”
Former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier insisted the move could further damage relations between Britain and France.
He said: “There are too many points of disappointment from our side and I think it could be difficult.”
The European Commission welcomed the extra licences for some French boats, but warned of its “regrets that it has not been possible to bring this issue now to an end”.
A spokeswoman said: “We will ask the UK for full disclosure of their methodology and will continue to further engage in the interest of our fishermen and women so that further licenses will be provided.”
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