Royal Navy Gets Involved as Fishing Dispute Escalates

A flare is lit as French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit

French officials say the boats are planning to sail to Jersey and back as a protest, but they will not be blockading the port.

That prompted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to send two navy ships to the area, with France following suit with two of its own coast patrol vessels.

"We consider that if the new demands for sea zoning or fishing equipment are integrated into the licences - when the European Commission has not been notified - they are null and void", the ministry told AFP.

French fishermen are threatening to blockade the port of Saint Helier, the capital of Jersey, Channel Islands.

PM Boris Johnson pledged his "unwavering support" for the island, a Crown dependency 14 miles (22km) off France in the English Channel.

"It's incredible to have succeeded in getting everyone together", fisherman Camille Lecureuil told French news agency AFP onboard his boat. "We're all outside the port". Fisherman John Dearing said the scene off St. Helier on Thursday was "like an invasion".

"The port captain in Jersey doesn't want to let the cargo ship out if everyone is around here".

The system - introduced by the Government of Jersey under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) - requires French boats to show they have a history of fishing in Jersey's waters.

It was unclear if they meant to blockade the port, or if they would allow other boats in and out. Some set up burning barricades at Boulogne-sur-Mer in late April to stop lorries carrying imported fish from the UK.

France threatens to cut electricity to British island in post-Brexit fisheries dispute
UK hits out at ‘unacceptable’ French threats to cut Jersey’s power

The threat to pull the plug on Jersey's electricity, which came from French Sea Minister Annick Girardin, is the latest escalation in a spat between France and the United Kingdom over post-Brexit fishing licenses.

But Beaune accused Britain of being to blame for failing to implement a Brexit deal that came into force on January 1 which should have guaranteed French fishermen the right to continue working in British waters.

"Our wish is not to have tensions, but to have a quick and full application of the (Brexit) deal", he told AFP, after speaking to Britain's minister for relations with the EU, David Frost. "That's the case for Jersey and that's the case for the licenses we are waiting for in the Hauts de France [region]".

The escalating tensions landed on the front pages of most British newspapers.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson believed "any blockade would be completely unjustified" and that the Navy vessels would be deployed as a "precautionary measure".

The UK and Jersey have hit out at France for making "disproportionate" threats after Paris warned it could cut off electricity to the island in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights.

But the move was welcomed by Jersey fishermen.

Fishing proved one of the most fraught issues in the frantic negotiations leading up to Britain's departure from the European Union, with London tightly guarding control over its waters as a symbol of its sovereignty.

In October 2018, dozens of French scallop fishermen confronted a handful of British rivals off the French coast, with a few vessels ramming others amid stone-throwing and smoke-bombs.

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