Portsmouth-based Royal Navy vessels HMS Tamar and HMS Severn returning to city after fishermen's protest off Jersey
DIPLOMATIC efforts with France are being stepped up to avoid a repeat of the Jersey fishing dispute, as two Portsmouth-based gunboats return to the city after patrolling the island’s waters.
The Royal Navy is set to closely watch the waters around the Channel Island as HMS Tamar and HMS Severn return from the region.
The two ships were safeguarding UK waters while around 60 French boats staged a protest around Jersey’s main port, St Helier, amid a dispute over fishing rights.
Jersey fishermen report flares being fired from boats, with some entering the harbour for almost an hour.
The chaotic scene was also patrolled by two French police vessels.
With the protest ending yesterday, the UK government and Jersey authorities have said they will step up diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute.
During an appearance on BBC’s Question Time, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said efforts would be made to resolve the dispute with Emmanuel Macron’s government and the EU.
Mr Jenrick said: ‘What we have done is make very clear to the French ministers who said some very unwise and disproportionate comments that we will stand with the people of Jersey.’
‘This issue now needs to be resolved by diplomacy, by the chief minister and the ministers of Jersey – with the support of the UK Government – working with their counterparts in France and the European Union.’
The secretary said that dispute hinges on the ‘precise details’ of the post-Brexit trade deal agreed by the UK and the EU.
The row erupted after the Jersey authorities said French boats would be required to obtain licences to carry on fishing in the island’s waters under the terms of the trade deal with the EU, which came into force last Friday.
The French government and the European Union have accused the Jersey authorities and UK government of failing to abide by the terms of the deal.
A spokesman for the French ministry for Europe and foreign affairs said the French government was acting ‘in the spirit of responsibility’ and it hoped for the situation to be ‘swiftly resolved’.
Jersey authorities have been speaking directly to fishermen from the island and mainland Europe, and island officials are looking at creating a forum to discuss disputes and concerns, Jersey’s chief minister John Le Fondre said.
Earlier this week, French maritime minister Annick Girardin said Paris could cut off electricity to Jersey – which gets 95 per cent of its power supply from France – if the dispute was not resolved.