THE pleasant island of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, is at the centre of international attention after up to 70 vessels from the French fishing fleet blockaded the island’s main port and capital, St Helier, yesterday morning in a protest over fishing rights in the rich seas around Jersey.

One video appeared to show a French trawler ramming an islander’s boat, though it is said to have been an accident. Two Royal Navy ships and two French patrol vessels went to the scene but did not intervene in what has been described locally as a noisy, colourful but mainly peaceful protest, with signal flares and rude shouts being the biggest ammunition fired. Fears are growing the protest could be the start of another “cod war”. 


PUT simply, Brexit. The trade deal signed on Christmas Eve by the European Union and the UK was supposed to guarantee French access to Jersey’s waters, but only if boats were licensed. 

French skippers, mostly from Normandy, were compelled to submit evidence of their past fishing activities in order to receive a licence to carry on operating in Jersey’s waters. Some 41 French boats have received their licences, but dozens more did not as they could not meet the conditions which came into force on May 1.

As with all things Brexit, the devil was in the detail, and when it came to obtaining licences the French discovered that Jersey was part of perfidious Albion – they were shocked to discover that the new bureaucratic process came with additional requirements that nobody had mentioned to them before. 

The French authorities said the additional requirements were “null and void” because they had not been discussed with France, and the European Commission agreed that the Jersey conditions are in breach of the trade and co-operation agreement.


A PROTEST was organised all week in the harbours of Normandy and rumours had spread that it would involve a blockade of St Helier. There was even a French threat to cut the electricity supply to Jersey, which relies on three cables to the French mainland for its power. That’s when Prime Minister Boris Johnson sprang into action on Wednesday evening, ordering HMS Severn and HMS Tamar to head for Jersey.

There was nothing they or the people of Jersey could do – at 4.30am yesterday morning the French fishing boats appeared outside the port, effectively blocking all ships going in and out.

Her Majesty’s press and the UK media propagandists were alerted and dutifully reported what the French fisherfolk were up to. Interestingly, the events have received minimal coverage in France itself.

Having made their protest and garnered their headlines, all the French boats left the scene.


BY yesterday afternoon, tempers had cooled and diplomacy was of the verbal and not gunboat variety.

Senator Ian Gorst (below left), Jersey’s external relations minister, said: “It’s really important that we are able to work with those fishermen to help them provide the necessary evidence so that, if required, their licences can be amended. 

The National:

“As I’ve said, it’s important that we respond to threats, but the answer to this solution is to continue to talk and diplomacy.”

There is some sympathy for their French counterparts among the Jersey fishing fleet, not least because Jersey boats sell 80% of their catches in France. 

Skipper Loic Farnham said: “They are professional fishermen, the same as we all are, we’d like to keep it all amicable so we can have access to the markets and they can carry on earning a living in our waters.”

The French government said: “We want to be able to return to negotiations, that we can obtain the fishing licenses provided for in the agreement.”


THERE is always such a danger when the military become involved, and the French protest organisers say they will be back on blockade unless the situation is resolved quickly. 

Jersey shows no sign of backing down, not least because Boris Johnson has assured the island’s government of his full support, but the EU siding with France suggests this particular Brexit muddle will soon end.  

Hopefully it has all been a “tempete dans un tasse de the” as they don’t say in France.