There is a dispute between Paris, Brussels and London. It is about fishing rights – in the English Channel the conflict has now escalated. Military ships are now in use there.
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The dispute between Great Britain and France over fishing rights in the English Channel has escalated surprisingly violently. Two British military ships patrolled the coast of the Channel Island of Jersey on Thursday, while more than 50 fishermen from France blocked the port with their boats and vented their anger with flares and banners. “It was like an invasion,” Jersey-based fisherman Josh Dearing told the UK news agency. France also sent two navy patrol boats near the Channel Island, which is around 20 kilometers from the French coast.
EU urges restraint
Around four months after the final Brexit, the EU Commission called on the conflicting parties to exercise restraint. The points of contention should be discussed calmly, demanded a commission spokeswoman. At the same time, the Brussels authority complained about a British violation of the Brexit trade pact: “The Commission has made it clear to Great Britain that the requirements of the trade and cooperation agreement have not been respected.” With the final Brexit, Great Britain finally left the EU internal market and the customs union after a transition phase.
Dispute in the poor canal: the island of Jersey is only 25 kilometers from the French coast. (Source: dpa)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for de-escalation – the warships were just a “precautionary measure,” he said. Paris also assured that it was not interested in escalation. “It is not our wish to create tension (…)”, said Secretary of State for Europe Clément Beaune of the AFP news agency. On the other hand, contractually stipulated rules would have to be applied quickly and completely. Jersey, as crown possession, is not part of the United Kingdom, but London is responsible for foreign and defense policy.
The background to the escalation is the question of whether and how many foreign fishermen will be allowed to catch in British waters after Brexit. During the negotiations on a Brexit trade pact between the British and the EU, this was the most controversial question, which at times seemed to make an agreement almost impossible. The regulations are particularly decisive for the neighboring French, who are only separated by the English Channel. It was not until Christmas Eve that an agreement was finally reached on the joint pact, which provisionally came into force only a week later. Both sides had to accept painful concessions.
According to Brussels, the British government only granted EU fishermen licenses to fish in British waters subject to certain conditions. This was reported to the Commission on April 30th, with effect from May 1st. It is true that fishing may be restricted in order to preserve stocks. From Brussels’ point of view, however, the deadline was too short and the question arises as to whether EU fishermen have been discriminated against. In Paris it was criticized that licenses for the fish-rich waters near Jersey were provided with additional conditions – this led to great unrest among the fishermen. France had threatened to cut power to Jersey. Downing Street condemned the Paris threats as “unacceptable and disproportionate”