A French government threat to cut off Jersey’s electricity over a post-Brexit fishing dispute was
“clearly unacceptable and disproportionate”,
the UK government has said.
French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin threatened “retaliatory measures” over the new licensing regime for fishing in Jersey’s waters.
About 95% of the island’s electricity comes from France via undersea cables.
A UK government spokesman said they were working with the EU and Jersey.
“To threaten Jersey like this is clearly unacceptable and disproportionate,”
the spokesman said.
“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.”
The row emerged over a new licensing system for French fishing vessels.
The system was introduced by the Government of Jersey under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
Jersey issued 41 licences for access to its waters on Friday when an interim agreement came to an end.
The Jersey government said the permits must
“correspond to the previous activity a vessel has carried out in Jersey waters” under the terms of the TCA and its new system was “in line with the data submitted by the French and EU authorities”.
A spokeswoman said it took French complaints over the terms of the licensing agreement “very seriously” and would respond, but said it had acted in “good faith” setting up the regime.
“The government remains committed to the sustainable management of Jersey waters for the benefit of this and future generations,”
‘Not first threat’
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ian Gorst, External Relations Minister for the Government of Jersey, argued there was no justification for such severe measures.
“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 Tuesday, he explained there was “no time limit” for the French fishing industry or government to provide evidence of previous activity in Jersey waters and he wanted to “heal this relationship”.
“If French fishermen or the authorities have further evidence they would like to submit, we will update the licences to reflect that evidence.”
French authorities said “new technical measures” for fishing off the Channel Islands had not been communicated to the EU, rendering them “null and void”.
Representatives from Normandy have closed their office in St Helier in protest of “inexplicable conditions” in the new scheme, which had been introduced “against all expectations”.
These include caps on the number of fishing days for different vessels, restrictions on gear and the closure of fishing areas.
The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the self-governing Crown Dependency is
“responsible for its own territorial waters”.