Jersey has accused the French government of making “disproportionate” threats after warning that it could cut off electricity to the island in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights.
Maritime minister Annick Girardin said France was ready to take “retaliatory measures” after accusing the Channel Island of dragging its feet over issuing new licences to French boats.
However Jersey’s External Relations Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, insisted that there was no justification for such severe measures.
How the row started
The row came after the island implemented new requirements under the terms of the UK-EU trade deal for boats to submit evidence of their past fishing activities in order to receive a licence to carry on operating in Jersey waters.
Mr Gorst told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “This is not the first threat that the French have made to either Jersey or the United Kingdom since we are into this new deal.
“It would seem disproportionate to cut off electricity for the sake of needing to provide extra details so that we can refine the licences.”
How much of Jersey’s electricity comes from France
Jersey receives 95% of its electricity from France through three undersea cables.
Ms Girardin told the French parliament that it gave Paris the “means” to act against the island if the issue could not be resolved.
“Even though I am sorry that it has come to this, we will do so if we have to,” she said.
‘I think a solution can be found’
Mr Gorst however said the island was not seeking to bar boats which had historically fished in Jersey waters and insisted the dispute could be resolved amicably.
He said that of the 41 boats which sought licences under the new rules last Friday, all but 17 had provided the evidence required.
“The trade deal is clear but I think there has been some confusion about how it needs to be implemented because we absolutely respect the historic rights of French fishermen to fish in Jersey waters as they have been doing for centuries,” he said.
“I do think a solution can be found. I am optimistic that we can provide extra time to allow this evidence to be provided.”
He said the Jersey government was now seeking permission from London and Brussels to speak directly with the French fishermen concerned to resolve the issue.
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