safety

French military ship en route to Jersey as post-Brexit clash over fishing rights escalates

A French warship is reportedly on the way to Jersey in a post-Brexit clash over fishing rights after Royal Navy gun boats were sent in.

Tensions escalated as a flotilla of French boats, said to number around 60, arrived at St Helier harbour and were being watched by two Royal Navy ships – HMS Severn and HMS Tamar.

The two armed vessels were seen patrolling the outskirts of the island on Thursday morning as French military boat, the Athos, was reported to now be heading there as well.

Some fishing boats set off flares and there was discussion over maritime radio of a blockade. The French vessels entered the harbour this morning but have since left and are massing near Elizabeth Castle, the Jersey Evening Post reported.

A number of locals have turned up to watch the drama unfold.

Downing Street said Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent the Navy ships after intelligence suggested the French boats had planned to block access to the port, despite calling for a “de-escalation in tensions”.

The French fisherman are protesting the lack of access to waters around the Channel Island because of restrictions on licences for small boats to operate within 12 miles of its shores.

Following talks with John Le Fondre, Jersey’s chief minister, Mr Johnson warned any attempt to block ships by the French would be “completely unjustified” and expressed his “unwavering support” for the island’s government.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister and chief minister stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions and for dialogue between Jersey and France on fishing access.

“The prime minister underlined his unwavering support for Jersey. He said that any blockade would be completely unjustified. As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two offshore patrol vessels to monitor the situation.”

TV OUT. ALL BROADCAST WEBSITES OUT. No cropping permitted. MANDATORY CREDIT: BBC News EDITORS NOTE: We are advised that video-grabs should not be used by daily papers later than 48 hours after the broadcast of the programme, without consent of the copyright holder. For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only. Screengrab from BBC News of French fishing vessels staging a protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights. Picture date: Thursday May 6, 2021. PA Photo. Dozens of French boats arrived at the harbour on Thursday morning, with some crews setting off flares during the so far peaceful protest. Two Royal Navy vessels, HMS Severn and HMS Tamar have been deployed by the UK Government to "monitor the situation" at the Channel Island. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: BBC News/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption.

TV OUT. ALL BROADCAST WEBSITES OUT. No cropping permitted. MANDATORY CREDIT: BBC News EDITORS NOTE: We are advised that video-grabs should not be used by daily papers later than 48 hours after the broadcast of the programme, without consent of the copyright holder. For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only. Screengrab from BBC News of French fishing vessels staging a protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights. Picture date: Thursday May 6, 2021. PA Photo. Dozens of French boats arrived at the harbour on Thursday morning, with some crews setting off flares during the so far peaceful protest. Two Royal Navy vessels, HMS Severn and HMS Tamar have been deployed by the UK Government to "monitor the situation" at the Channel Island. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: BBC News/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption.

French fishing vessels outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights (Photo: BBC News/PA)

Both the Navy vessels are heavily armed. HMS Tamar, which has machine guns and a helicopter landing pad, came into service in January and was commissioned to protect UK fishing waters in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Commodore Goodwill freight ship was initially unable to leave port earlier today.

In a tweet Paul Luxon, Condor’s chief executive, said: “Sadly she is trapped, we tried to bring her in earlier so in – discharge, load – out, and on her way, but in dialogue with Jersey Authorities ‘safety first’ of course.’”

However the protest leader later instructed the vessels to let the ship leave.

A member of the Jersey Militia re-enactment group was seen firing on the French boats with a musket from Elizabeth Castle this morning after the flotilla left Jersey’s main harbour and returned to open water.

In a statement, Mr Le Fondre and the minister for external relations, Senator Ian Gorst said they expected a “peaceful demonstration by the French fishermen outside St Helier Harbour” on Thursday.

On Wednesday night, the pair said: “The responsible Ministers and government officials have met this evening to ensure that the very best plans are in place to ensure Islanders interests are properly protected at all times. We remain confident in our ability to do this.

“We welcome the ongoing support from the Prime Minister and UK Government to achieve a diplomatic solution to this dispute, and we are aware that the UK are sending two offshore patrol vessels as a precautionary measure to monitor the situation in Jersey waters.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said they Navy ships had been deployed to Jersey “to conduct maritime security patrols, adding “This is a strictly precautionary measure and has been agreed with the Jersey Government”.

Undated handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of new patrol ship HMS Tamar, which will head to the Asia-Pacific region with a 'dazzle camouflage' paint scheme, various shades of black, white and grey in strange or jarring shapes. Issue date: Tuesday April 27, 2021. PA Photo. The paint scheme, introduced by the Royal Navy towards the end of World War 1, was adopted by many of the world's navies at the time ? and repeated again between 1939 and 1945. See PA story DEFENCE Paint. Photo credit should read: Ministry of Defence/Crown Copyright/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Undated handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of new patrol ship HMS Tamar, which will head to the Asia-Pacific region with a 'dazzle camouflage' paint scheme, various shades of black, white and grey in strange or jarring shapes. Issue date: Tuesday April 27, 2021. PA Photo. The paint scheme, introduced by the Royal Navy towards the end of World War 1, was adopted by many of the world's navies at the time ? and repeated again between 1939 and 1945. See PA story DEFENCE Paint. Photo credit should read: Ministry of Defence/Crown Copyright/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

A file photo of HMS Tamar has been sent to patrol the coast of Jersey as French fishing boats descended on the island in protest of their working rights (Photo: Ministry of Defence/PA)

Jersey has been asked to give authorisation to 41 French boats to fish off its coastline but said 17 of the vessels had been unable to prove they had historical links to the fishing grounds as required in the terms of a Brexit agreement struck last year.

The island’s government placed restrictions on how long some of the boats could fish in Jersey waters and the type of equipment they could use.

France has also threatened to cut the island’s electricity off if the dispute is not resolved.

Annick Girardin, the French maritime minister, warned on Tuesday Paris could shut down three undersea cables which provide Jersey with 95 per cent of its electricity.

The threat by French fishermen to blockade St Helier would prevent supplies from being delivered.

A UK Government spokesman earlier said: “To threaten Jersey like this is clearly unacceptable and disproportionate.

“We are working closely with the EU and Jersey on fisheries access provisions following the end of the transition period so trust the French will use the mechanisms of our new treaty to solve problems.”

Jersey tensions rise as France send vessel to harbour to counter Navy ships

Two Royal Navy[1] vessels are patrolling the waters of Jersey amid fears of a possible blockade by about 60 French fishing boats which gathered off the island “like an invasion”.

France appeared to be sending a naval vessel towards the Channel island’s port of St Helier as a row over post-Brexit fishing rights between the UK and France escalated on Thursday.

A flotilla of French boats headed towards Jersey at about 5am, with fishermen lighting flares and waving banners calling for fishing access to the waters. Two local boats were said to have joined the demonstration as police and islanders looked on.

The Royal Navy’s HMS Severn and HMS Tamar have been deployed by the UK Government to “monitor the situation”.

David Sellam, head of the joint Normandy-Brittany sea authority, was quoted by French media as saying that Jersey had been taken over by an “extremist fringe”, who wanted to profit from Brexit[2].

He added: “We’re ready for war. We can bring Jersey to its knees if necessary.”

Are you affected by the demonstration? Let us know at [email protected][3]

A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour
A French vessel moves into the harbour with a Royal Navy ship seen in the distance

Jersey’s External Affairs Minister, Ian Gorst, said he and the local environment minister will be meeting French fishermen on Thursday morning.

The Commodore Goodwill freight ferry was initially unable to leave the harbour due to the flotilla.

Condor CEO Paul Luxon tweeted: “Sadly she is trapped, we tried to bring her in earlier so in – discharge, load – out, and on her way, but in dialogue with Jersey Authorities ‘safety first’ of course.'”

However, the protest leader later instructed the vessels to let the ship leave, the Jersey Evening Post[4] reported.

Two local boats from Jersey joined the protest, the report added.

Jersey fisherman Josh Dearing described the scene at the port of St Helier on Thursday morning as “like an invasion”, with the French fleet mostly made up of “big French dredgers and trawlers” of 12 metres or more.

French fishermen hang a banner as fishing boats protest in front of the port of St Helier off the British island of Jersey
French fishermen hang a banner as boats protest in front of the port of St Helier, Jersey

Mr Dearing, 28, said: “There were probably about 60 boats. There were a few hand-held flares and smoke flares going off and apparently a few maybe bangers and stuff going off from the French.

“It was quite a sight. It was impressive, I looked from the shore this morning and it was just like a sea of red lights and flares already going off at sea. It was like an invasion.”

Paris has warned it could cut off power to the island, which receives 95 per cent of its electricity from France through three undersea cables, in retaliation for the fallout.

French fishermen launched their protest a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson[5] told Jersey Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondre and Mr Gorst they have his “unwavering support”.

French maritime minister Annick Girardin warned on Tuesday that the country was ready to take “retaliatory measures”, accusing Jersey of dragging its feet over issuing new licences to French boats.

Sign up to our newsletter to get the day’s biggest news straight to your inbox

The Mirror’s newsletter brings you the latest news, exciting showbiz and TV stories, sport updates and essential political information.

The newsletter is emailed out first thing every morning, at 12noon and every evening.

Never miss a moment by signing up to our newsletter here[6].

A UK Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “HMS Severn and HMS Tamar are deploying to Jersey to conduct maritime security patrols.

“This is a strictly precautionary measure and has been agreed with the Jersey Government.”

A Downing Street spokesman added: “The Prime Minister and Chief Minister stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions and for dialogue between Jersey and France on fishing access.

“The Prime Minister underlined his unwavering support for Jersey.

“He said that any blockade would be completely unjustified.

Boris Johnson orders Navy patrol boats to Jersey over Brexit fishing row with France
HMS Severn is one of two Royal Navy ships to be sent to Jersey (file photo)
A French naval vessel called Athos
A French naval vessel called Athos appeared to be heading towards Jersey (file phot)

“As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two offshore patrol vessels to monitor the situation.

“They agreed the UK and Jersey Governments would continue to work closely on this issue.”

John Healey MP, Labour[7]’s shadow defence secretary, said the threats on Jersey are “completely unreasonable”, as he urged the Government to meet with their French counterparts and the island’s authorities.

He added: “The Navy’s experience in sensitive situations will help reassure residents and protect Britain’s broader national interests.

“The British government must now get round the table with French colleagues and authorities in Jersey and sort this issue out.”

French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey
A flotilla of French boats headed towards Jersey at about 5am on Thursday
Marine tracking websites show French boats gathering off Jersey
Boats can be seen massing at the harbour on the south side of the island

Don Thompson, president of Jersey Fishermen’s Association, said the “big question on everybody’s lips right now is ‘will our Government capitulate to that sort of tactic?’”

He told Good Morning Britain:[8] “The French fishermen out there want conditions removed from their licences so that they can fish with no constraints in our waters, whilst our boats are subject to all sorts of conditions about how much they can catch, where they can go.”

He said it would be “grossly unfair” if the Government does “capitulate to that” and said such tactics might be used “again and again in the future”.

He added: “They’re not very happy fishermen down here this morning, suspecting that we probably will see our Government give in to that.”

Mr Thompson said Jersey’s fishermen had told the Government they are prepared to ditch their fishing licences if the French win their demands.

He added: “We’ve already told our minister – our licences, some of our fishermen have paid a quarter of a million pounds for our licences – we’re going to get rid of our licences and fish without licences.

“We just will not put up with those (French) boats being left to fish uncontrolled, unsustainably in our waters, whilst we’re subject to all sorts of constraints.”

He said: “It would be grossly unfair and highly discriminatory on our fleet to have to fish against that huge (French) fleet out there in our waters and see those boats have no constraints whatsoever and for our boats to be subject to all sorts of conditions.

“That would just be absolutely unacceptable.”

Speaking to BBC Newsnight[9] on Wednesday, Mr Gorst said the threats from Paris and the French fishermen were being taken “very seriously”.

French fishing boats protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey
The view from one of the French fishing boats involved in the demonstration

He added: “They are disproportionate to the issues that are being experienced in the post-Brexit trade licensing issuing.”

The UK and Jersey have already criticised France for making “disproportionate” threats after Paris warned it could cut off electricity to the island.

The row began 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.

A UK Government spokesman earlier said: “To threaten Jersey like this is clearly unacceptable and disproportionate.

“We are working closely with the EU and Jersey on fisheries access provisions following the end of the transition period so trust the French will use the mechanisms of our new treaty to solve problems.”

Dozens of French fishing boats have descended on Jersey
Dozens of French fishing boats have descended on Jersey

Mr Gorst told the BBC Radio 4 Today[10] programme on Wednesday: “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.”

On Wednesday Mr Gorst held talks with Marc Lefevre, the president of the La Manche region of northern France, on the “difficult set of issues relating to fishing licences”.

“There are a number of important matters which we will continue to work through,” he said.

Dozens of French fishing boats have descended on Jersey
A flotilla of fishing vessels are seen in St Helier harbour

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.

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.”

References

  1. ^ Royal Navy (www.mirror.co.uk)
  2. ^ Brexit (www.mirror.co.uk)
  3. ^ [email protected] (www.mirror.co.uk)
  4. ^ Jersey Evening Post (jerseyeveningpost.com)
  5. ^ Boris Johnson (www.mirror.co.uk)
  6. ^ here (www.mirror.co.uk)
  7. ^ Labour (www.mirror.co.uk)
  8. ^ Good Morning Britain: (www.itv.com)
  9. ^ BBC Newsnight (www.bbc.co.uk)
  10. ^ Today (www.bbc.co.uk)

First Aid for truck drivers: Trucking 202

Few of us head for work thinking, “Geez, what if something nasty happened to me today? Would I know how to handle it?” The truth is most of us live in pretty comfortable routines. We seldom stop to consider the “what-ifs”.
But consider how many car and…