Michel Barnier claims Brexit Britain acting ‘like buccaneers’ after Jersey fishing row

Brexit is a 'failure' for the EU says Michel Barnier

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Last week saw the UK send two Royal Navy vessels to Jersey in response to French fishers blockading the islands port. While the boats returned to the UK, the EU’s Brexit negotiator said Britain is failing to uphold the trade deal.

Appearing on French TV, Mr Barnier threw his support behind the countries fishers and blasted the changes in access to Jersey’s waters.

He said: “I think the French fishermen are right and they must be supported.

“The French authorities, the government and the European Commission must support these fishermen because they have the right to obtain the right to fish in these waters near Jersey and Guernsey, where there are less problems.”

Mr Barnier also blasted Britain’s handling of the Jersey row, and said: “I think that the British are behaving like buccaneers – and it’s not the first time.”

Speaking to C Politique on Sunday, Mr Barnier said he thinks the Brexit trade deal is “not currently being respected” by Britain.

Referencing threats to cut off Jersey’s electricity, he added: “We must clearly tell the British it cannot work like this otherwise there will be serious consequences on the deal in general and reprisal measures that are included in the treaty.

“I think that the people of Jersey should be very careful as well because they depend on the [continent] not just for electricity but for business activity and VAT.

“We have a global deal and they must be careful, that’s the message I want to pass on.”

Jersey introduced new licences for French fishers in the wake of the UK’s exit from the EU in January.

Two wildlife conservation conditions have been added to the licences, dealing with dredging and nesting areas.

Access to the licences is granted based on how much fishing French boats carried out in Jersey between February 2017 and January 2020.

France was furious over the new amendments, and argued the new rules create restricted zones and limited the kind of fishing equipment which can be used.

In response to the licences, around 60 French vessels attempted to blockade St Helier, Jersey’s main port.

Ahead of the protest, Mr Johnson approved the deployment of two Royal Navy patrol vessels, HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, to the waters to monitor the situation.

France also sent two patrol boats, Athos and FS Themis, to the area in response to British “intimidation”.

The protest started at 06:30am on Thursday, with French fishers setting off flares, before ending at around 2pm.

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Local leaders in La Manche, Normandy, also insisted boats from the Channel island would be suspended from entering the ports of Granville, Barneville-Carteret and Dielette until further notice.

Ian Gorst, Jersey’s minister for external relations, said the island regretted the decision by French ports to ban Jersey fishermen from landing their catch.

The minister also said he believed the restrictions breach the Brexit trade deal.

In a statement, he said: “For that reason, we are referring the notice of this decision immediately to the European Commission.”

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