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Energy threat returns as France promises pressure in “days”

Energy threat returns as France promises pressure in “days”

Thursday 07 October 2021

Energy threat returns as France promises pressure in “days”


A French Minister has threatened to cut the Channel Islands' energy supplies yet again because of the ongoing dispute over fishing.

Last week, Jersey announced that up to 95 small boats could be given a licence to fish in its waters, but told 75 boats that they did not meet the criteria and had 30 days’ notice to stop fishing around Jersey and its reefs.

The final number was, however, significantly more than the 12 issued by the UK to EU boats.

Guernsey has received evidence to support applications by French vessels and officials say that decisions on issuing licences will be made this month.

Speaking to Europe 1 about the fishing situation, European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said that France was left incensed by Jersey’s announcement, and that his country felt the UK-EU Brexit deal wasn’t being respected.

"Enough already, we have an agreement negotiated by France, by [the EU's former Chief Negotiator] Michel Barnier, and it should be applied 100%. It isn't being," he said.

"In the next few days - and I talked to my European counterparts on this subject yesterday - we will take measures at the European level or nationally, to apply pressure on the United Kingdom."

"We defend our interests. We do it nicely, and diplomatically, but when that doesn't work, we take measures," said Mr Beaune, who later described Brexit as "populist" and a "failure".

“The Channel Islands, the UK, are dependent on us for their energy supply. They think they can live on their own and badmouth Europe as well. And because it doesn’t work, they indulge in one-upmanship, and in an aggressive way."

Pictured: "The British think they can live all alone and badmouth Europe. As that doesn't work, they engage in one-upmanship... Our Government supports and defends our fishermen, and will continue to do so," Mr Beaune tweeted.

The power cut threat was previously raised by Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, ahead of French fishers storming St. Helier harbour in protest at Jersey’s post-Brexit licensing regime in May.

Jersey was clear at the time, however, that the electricity supply, which is delivered via undersea cables, would be protected by a commercial contract with EDF.

Express asked the States of Guernsey's external affairs team whether the island is prepared in the event of a negative reaction from France. 

“Guernsey continues to work closely with all of its regional neighbours," said External Affairs Lead Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq.

"We recently announced its roadmap to issuing fishing licences to qualifying French vessels under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement. In the meantime an interim fishing regime has been in operation and this has worked well.

"With regard to energy supplies, Guernsey has good resilience in its supply strategy that provides for continuity should there be any issue with energy supplied through the cable from France, via Jersey.”

IMG_3651.JPG

Pictured: French boats surrounding the Commodore Goodwill during May's protest by French fishermen in Jersey.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex also threatened retaliatory action when speaking in the Assemblée this week. 

But he said this would not be the first step, suggesting instead that France would first appeal to an arbitration panel.

He told the French Parliament that his Government was, if necessary, prepared to suspend bilateral agreements with the UK.

“We will use the arbitration panel of the agreement to force the British to respect their word. We will question all the conditions for the more comprehensive implementation of the agreements concluded under the aegis of the European Union, but also, if necessary, the bilateral cooperation that we have with the United Kingdom in many areas.”

Annick Girardin.jpeg

Pictured: French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin was the first to make the power cut threat back in May.

In making its licensing announcement last week, Jersey confirmed that certain conditions attached – a key cause of many French fishers’ anger - would be temporarily suspended pending further discussions with the EU.

Such conditions include ‘days at sea’ and ‘gear used’.

During May’s protests, the European Commission claimed that the inclusion of these conditions was in breach of the Brexit agreement.

Marine conservation charity Blue Marine urgently called on Jersey this week to reinstate the conditions, saying that suspending them was threatening the sustainability of local fish stocks.

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