This is the first concrete track of retaliation after ten days of arm wrestling. Paris threatened Friday, October 8 to “reduce” its deliveries of electricity to Jersey because of the post-Brexit crisis linked to fishing. “Reducing deliveries (of electricity to Jersey) is possible, cutting off the power to every inhabitant of Jersey this winter, it will not happen”, declared the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, on the BFMTV channel. The agreement obtained by EU negotiator Michel Barnier on Brexit provides for an “energy export agreement”, he noted. “So we can regulate the flow. I don’t want us to come to that. This is one of the political possibilities.”

The day before, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jersey Ian Gorst had denounced the threats “unacceptable” and “disproportionate” of France which had suggested that it could cut the current to the Channel island, fed by cables under -marines departing from the French coasts. “This would amount to cutting off the supply of energy to 108,000 islanders, to our hospital and to our schools,” he stressed, believing that this would not happen and ensuring that Jersey had a back-up plan in case this threat was enforcement.

The post-Brexit agreement, reached in extremis at the end of last year between London and Brussels, provides that European fishermen can continue to work in certain British waters on condition that they obtain a license, granted if they can prove that they fished there before. In the still disputed fishing zones (6-12 miles from the British coasts and the Channel Islands), London and Jersey have granted a total of just over 200 definitive licenses, while Paris is still asking for 244.

“Bad will” for France

France is seeking to create a “European front” against the United Kingdom, without for the moment eliciting an official reaction from the other member states. The European Commission, for its part, said it regrets the “limited” number of licenses granted, considering having “provided all the available and relevant evidence that demonstrates the historical activity” of the current French licenses and inviting London to “share its methodology. “. On the other hand, she refused to comment “on a possible next step if these discussions do not lead to the desired result”, reaffirming Wednesday through the voice of her spokesperson Dana Spinant that the Commission was engaged in “constructive discussions with all parties “.

The positions of the British and French authorities seem difficult to reconcile, the former believing that they cannot go further on this “technical” dossier, the latter judging that the conflict is now “political”. A British government spokesperson in Brussels said on Friday that London had gone “so far as to purchase commercially available positioning data to help” small vessels not equipped with GPS prove their ancient presence in British waters. “We continue to work with the European Commission and the French authorities and we remain open to the examination of any other evidence in support of the remaining license applications,” added the spokesperson.

Arguments swept away by France, which believes that British practices are mainly “bad will”, camouflaged behind technical considerations. Paris has once again criticized the United Kingdom for wanting to hide the post-Brexit difficulties it is facing by seeking “conflict” with the Europeans. “They missed Brexit, it is their choice and it is their failure, it is not ours,” said Clément Beaune. The time has therefore come to prepare retaliatory measures, called for by all the fishermen’s committees in the Channel. The Ministry of the Sea is carrying out consultations and listing the avenues – which range from energy to welcoming students to taxes and impediments to the landing of British fish in French ports -, before the announcement of decisions in the second half of October.


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