France’s threat to cut Jersey’s electricity over a post-Brexit fishing row is “completely disproportionate and unacceptable”, the environment and food secretary has said.
George Eustice said the threat against the crown dependency, which gets 95% of its electricity from France, is over about 17 fishing vessels that have failed to provide data so Jersey can issue the licences for its waters.
He added that the UK has issued hundreds of licences to French and EU vessels to allow them to fish in British waters since the first day of the Brexit transition period.
France accused the UK on Wednesday of using red tape to limit fishing around Jersey, in breach of the agreement made with the EU last year, and said it is “ready to use these retaliation measures”.
“With regards to Jersey, I would remind you, for example, of electricity transmission by underwater cable. So, we have the means,” French maritime minister Annick Girardin said.
She also said the authorisation of 41 boats to fish in Jersey waters had been accompanied by new demands “which were not arranged or discussed, and which we were not notified about”.
The demands set out where ships could and could not go, how long fishermen can spend at sea, and what machinery they can use, she added.
Mr Eustice said the UK has been asking the European Commission for the data needed to complete the licence applications and will issue them “as soon as they have provided that data”.
“I think the threat that was made is completely disproportionate and unacceptable,” he said.
“We are working through the agreement, Jersey have already licensed over 40 vessels, they’ve been very pragmatic throughout this.
“They’ve also been clear that they’ll process the remaining 17 or so as soon as they put forward the data, so I think it’s unacceptable to make those sorts of comments.”
He added that the agreement with the EU “was clear” that “historic access” would be granted and the UK wants to do so – as soon as the data is handed over.
Mr Eustice said “a small number” of French authorities or individual French fishermen have been “difficult to identify” and get the data from but Jersey has issued temporary licences as vessels gather the data.
He criticised the French for making the threats instead of going through a joint UK-EU committee that is meant to deal with any problems arising from the Brexit deal.
“These are some minor technical issues that some fishing vessels in France are encountering but as soon as they’ve provided the data required to support their application Jersey have been issuing those licences,” he said.
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