French fishermen protest at Jersey’s main port amidst post-Brexit dispute

Around 60 fishing boats, from France, staged a peaceful protest at St Helier. The protesting had come from a disagreement surrounding a post-Brexit agreement that had only given the French 41 licenses, or permits, that would allow them to operate in Jersey’s waters.

17 of the 41 boats have been given much less access than they were expecting, due to the information provided being unsatisfactory. Out of retaliation, France has threatened to cut electricity supplies to Jersey, which legally- they could.

This row has had the backing of the European Commission, they believe that the trade deal is not being respected by Jersey yet the UK has stated that it informed the European Commission about the new licences- yet they were not made timely enough. 

Following talks that were deemed “positive” by Jersey’s External Relations Minister Ian Gorst, two Royal Navy ships and two French vessels were sent to the area, only to monitor the situation. Throughout the dispute these types of talks were being held, with tension rising as time past, this ultimately led to a standstill which resulted in the French retreating out of the Jersey territory. 

Throughout this row, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had given his “unequivocal support” and claimed that he only sent the Royal Navy to “monitor the situation as a precautionary measure”- deterring the need for the French patrol vessels.

The French fishermen were within their rights to be angry and the peaceful protest led to global recognition because of the potential of outbursts or retaliation from either side. Jersey Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondre said “the French fishermen protested peacefully and respectfully”. With Gorst adding “the answer to this solution is to continue to talk and diplomacy” and thanking the UK government for its quick response time.

Boris Johnson then went onto releasing a statement on Twitter, thanking the Royal Navy for their “swift response” and stating that “the UK will always stand resolutely by the people of Jersey”.

What happens next?

Despite the fishing industry only accounting for 0.1% of the UK’s economy, it has remained a large talking point since Brexit. EU boats will continue to fish in UK waters, yet the UK have gained more control- as shown at St Helier, which has upset EU fishing industries. From this agreement, the UK will earn a greater share of fish from their own waters, this will continue until around 2026, from then the UK will be able to negotiate annually on how the catch will be shared between the UK and EU.

From 2026 onwards the UK will have the right to completely exclude EU boats from UK waters but this could in turn lead to the EU taxing exports of British fish or denying the UK access to EU waters.

Trade relations still remain positive but the fishing industry will always have local significance, dominating coastal communities such as Cornwall and Plymouth alike. Brexit was a national issue which impacted a small industry, on a national scale, yet local fishermen now have their livelihoods at stake- meaning county culture could be at risk if the fishing industry ceases to continue.

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