Boris Johnson vows to defend Jersey from French threats and insists Navy gunboats WILL stay on guard
6th May 2021

BORIS Johnson today vowed to stand by Jersey in the face of French threats and announced Navy gunboats will stay in the area.

The PM spoke the island's chief minister John Le Fondré this morning as tensions escalated in a major row over fishing rights.

🔵 Read our Jersey stand-off live blog for the very latest updates

This morning dozens of French trawlers descended on the capital St Helier and threatened to blockade its port.

They are protesting against the introduction of new licensing rules for entering Jersey's waters.

France has even said it could cut electricity supplies to the island, which relies on an underground cable, if they aren't dropped.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The chief minister updated the PM on the latest developments with French fishing vessels around Jersey’s coast.

“The PM reiterated his unequivocal support for Jersey and confirmed that the two Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels would remain in place to monitor the situation as a precautionary measure.”

“They agreed to stay in touch as the situation develops.”

Supermarket chiefs have warned shelves could run bare on the island, home to 100,000 people, could run out in just two days.

Last year the Government drew up plans for a no deal Brexit that included the possibility of airlifting in food and medical supplies.

It even warned bad weather could mean the military would have to be drafted in to make the deliveries.

The document, first disclosed by The Sun, also stated Navy patrols would be needed to stop French fishermen blockading ports.

Ministers have vowed to take strong action to protect Jersey from any hostile action.

But it is understood reports they are considering slashing energy ties with France in response to the row are wide of the mark.

Some sources suggested future underwater cables could be redirected to more reliable partners, like the Netherlands, over its "outrageous" actions.

Two Royal Navy patrol boats – HMS Severn and HMS Taymar – are currently deployed just off Jersey overseeing the fishing protest.

France has also sent in two of its own vessels – one of which belongs to the gendarme military police force.

This afternoon there were signs the French fishing flotilla was starting to disperse and head home.

Europe minister Clement Beaune said Paris was "not impressed" by the presence of UK gunboats and vowed: "We won't be intimidated by these manoeuvres."

But he added: "Our wish is not to have tensions, but to have a quick and full application of the deal.

"We're working nonstop with the European Commission and British authorities."

Stephanie Yon-Courtin, a euro MP with Emmanuel Macron's party, said Brits "have to to understand that our fishermen need to carry on working".

She said: "I'm just saying that at the last resort, if we don't have any other means to be understood, then we will have to consider that.

"We don't want to do that, I don't think it's good, I don't think it's good for anybody."

Paris has also been backed up today by Brussels, which is calling on the Jersey authorities to scrap its new licensing rules.

An EU Commission spokesman said it had "clearly indicated to the UK" that the extra red tape doesn't "respect" the terms of last year's Brexit deal.

He added: "Until the UK authorities provide further justifications on the new conditions, these new conditions should not apply."

But he said: "We call for restraint and for calm. We’re engaging in good faith with the UK to try and resolve the situation."

No 10 has said France and the EU should lodge any complaints they have via the independent dispute settlement system build into the trade agreement.

Tensions erupted after Jersey introduced new licenses for French trawler men who want to fish in its waters.

Under the new regime skippers must be able to demonstrate a historic link to the area with GPS data from 2012-2016.

But of the 41 boats that need the are paperwork, some 17 are thought to not have that information available.

Tensions escalated today as dozens of French boats set sail for the capital St Helier in protest at the new rules.

British fishermen in the harbour said the flotilla of around 60 vessels looked "like an invasion".

The dispute has sparked yet a major war of words between Britain and France as post-Brexit tensions rumble on.

Boris Johnson described the threats against Jersey as "unacceptable" and ""disproportionate".

A Government source said: "A senior Government source added: "Comments such as these are surprising and disappointing, especially from a close neighbour.

“This is just the latest example of the EU issuing threats as a first resort at any sign of difficulty."

And a Whitehall official told The Sun: "At least when the Germans invaded in World War 2 they kept the lights on."

Today the Jersey government said it was "important" that No 10 had responded "firmly" to the "threats" of a blockade.

External affairs minister Ian Gorst said: "We've heard disproportionate threats from Paris and now with a potential blockade.

"A minister in Paris threatened over technical issues on fishing licences to cut off Jersey's electricity.

"And fishing vessels threatened to blockade the main harbour into the island. We have to take such threats seriously and respond appropriately.

"But the answer to the issues that are being faced are without doubt talking and diplomacy."

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