Hyderabad: The UK has deployed two royal navy vessels HMS Severn and HMS Tamar to Jersey to conduct “maritime security patrols” as a “strictly precautionary measure” following talks with the Jersey government.
HMS Severn entered back into service in June last year – after being saved from the scrapyard – to boost the UK’s ability to patrol its waters after Brexit. HMS Tamar came into service in December last year as one of five new offshore patrol vessels.
Meanwhile, France has sent its own patrol vessel to Jersey to “guarantee the safety” of people at sea and “accompany” French fishing vessels.
Jersey, the biggest of the Channel Islands, is a British Crown Dependency and is defended and internationally represented by the UK government. It lies just 14 miles from the French coast and 85 miles south of the English coast.
The vessels were deployed amid concerns of a possible blockade of Jersey by French boats. As of Thursday morning, up to 60 vessels were reported off Jersey’s south coast, near the island’s capital St Helier, as part of a demonstration by French fishermen.
French fishermen protest
French fishing crews are demonstrating as part of a row over post-Brexit fishing rights. Under the Brexit trade deal, which came into force on 1 January, EU fishermen continue to have some rights to fish in UK waters as part of a transition period until 2026.
However, under the new rules, EU boats wanting to fish within 12 miles of the UK coast need to be licensed and prove they have a history of fishing in those waters in order to carry on operating. This includes submitting evidence of their past fishing activities.
Denial of fishing licences angers France
Jersey has not granted licences to some of the boats that have applied to fish in its waters. Ian Gorst, the island’s external relations minister, said of the 41 boats which sought licences under the new rules, all but 17 had provided the evidence required.
The French government has also expressed its anger at what it said were unilaterally-imposed conditions on the fishing licences, including the time French fishing vessels could spend in Jersey’s waters. Jersey said it had issued permits in line with the terms of the post-Brexit trade deal.
Disputes in the past
During the UK’s 47-year membership of the EU, fishing rights were decided as part of the bloc’s Common Fisheries Policy. However, prior to that, there had been what were known as the “Cod Wars” between Icelandic and British fishing vessels from 1958 to 1976. These violent clashes were sparked by Iceland asserting control over the seas surrounding the island.
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