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UK military prepares in case French fishermen blockade the Bailiwick

UK military prepares in case French fishermen blockade the Bailiwick

Monday 06 December 2021

UK military prepares in case French fishermen blockade the Bailiwick

Monday 06 December 2021


The UK military is holding training exercises to prepare for the possibility of a blockade of the Channel Islands by French fishermen.

The Royal Navy and Royal Marines recently took part in ‘Exercise Joint Blockade’ off the coast of Dorset. The drill simulated a blockade of St Peter Port and other ports in the Channel Islands and allowed naval forces to work on how they might break up a blockade.

Express reported that on Wednesday a Royal Navy patrol vessel – HMS Severn - was in Bailiwick waters with trainee navigators on board. There has been no confirmation of links between HMS Severn’s presence locally and ‘Exercise Joint Blockade’ a few days earlier. But it is now clear that the UK considers it prudent to undertake naval exercises in the Channel amid rising cross-Channel tensions over migration and fishing rights.

The States announced – also on Wednesday – that they were issuing licences to 43 French vessels to allow them to fish in Bailiwick waters after post-Brexit arrangements with the European Union end on 31 January 2022.

But the States rejected applications to license 18 trawlers. And on Thursday night, a group of French vessels blocked Alderney fisherman Lewis Main from landing his catch in Cherbourg. It is believed that the blockade in Cherbourg was organised by the owner of two of the vessels which were denied a licence by the States. Jersey and UK vessels have been involved in similar incidents at other French ports.

le_Tocq_fishing.jpg

Pictured: The States' lead for external relations, Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq, said that the decision about which French vessels to license was based on carefully studying data about where vessels have fished in the past.

The UK government and border authorities want to be well prepared to limit disruption to trade if French fishermen should move their protests from France to England or the Channel Islands.

The Royal Navy said: “The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is working with the Home Office to understand and agree potential requests for military support.

“The MoD routinely supports the Border Force and has provided specialist training, military planners, surveillance aircraft and accommodation in the past year.”

France has been expressing dissatisfaction for some time over how the UK is applying aspects of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which is meant to govern the post-Brexit relationship between the EU and the UK.

The French authorities have periodically suggested that they may impose extra checks on UK hauliers at ports in France and one French Minister has talked about disrupting the Channel Islands’ electricity supply from mainland Europe.

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