French fishers return home after talks with Jersey officials over licensing issues end in deadlock. Photo courtesy Peter Rondel
French fishing boats are returning home ending their protest off Jersey’s main port, St Helier.
Jersey Government officials met with French fishermen amid the intensifying fisheries crisis which resulted in a peaceful blockade of the harbour this morning.
Talks took place between Government officials and the fishers’ representatives onboard a French vessel in the harbour as the French being unable to come on land due to COVID-19 restrictions.
It has been reported that 60 or so French fishing vessels attended the protest over licensing laws issued by the Jersey Government, which the French claim are unfair and restrictive.
Jersey’s External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said discussions were “positive”.
However, a spokesman for fishermen from France’s Normandy region suggested that no progress had been made during the talks.
“We’re getting deeper into deadlock,” Hugo Lehuby told Reuters news agency. “Either this gets resolved, or retaliatory measures are taken.”
In Brussels, a European Commission spokeswoman said “additional conditions” attached to the new licences were a breach of the Brexit trade deal.
Downing Street sent two Navy boats in the area amid the protests, but they lay about a mile offshore monitoring the situation.
In a press release this afternoon, the Jersey Government said:
The UK Prime Minister has given his full support to Jersey’s management of the French fishermen’s protest.
This morning Jersey’s Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré, Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham, and Minister for External Relations Senator Ian Gorst discussed developments with the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Senator Le Fondré said: “We updated the Prime Minister on the current position in respect of the French protest and confirmed that Jersey Government representatives were meeting the fishermen to hear their concerns, and that we would ensure that lines of communication remained open and constructive.”
Senator Gorst said: “The Prime Minister reiterated his personal support, and the continued assistance of the UK Government in working to resolve the dispute. We agreed that all sides remain committed to engaging with our partners in the EU and France to resolve the concerns arising from the issuing of fishing licenses under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which led to today’s protest.”
This eveing there has been a warning that tensions are escalating as a Jersey fishing vessel was reportedly turned away from landing cuttlefish at the French port Barneville-Carteret.