Fishermen back UK’s controversial legislation

JERSEY’S fractious relations with the French over fishing rights could be inflamed after the local fleet backed a controversial UK decision to potentially take control over the Island’s waters – and possibly exclude foreign boats.

Fisherman Don Thompson
Fisherman Don Thompson

In an unprecedented move in Westminster this week, MPs passed a ‘permissive extent clause’ in the Fisheries Bill designed to allow the UK Parliament to legislate for Jersey and Guernsey in terms of fishing rights, against the will of the islands.

The Government of Jersey has argued that the UK will still be unable to pass laws for the Island without the backing of the States Assembly.

The Fisheries Bill sets out the framework for the UK’s post-Brexit strategy for use of its coastal waters, with the British government standing firm on no longer allowing foreign boats to fish within the country’s 12-mile limit.

Meanwhile, Jersey’s government has been trying to maintain the Granville Bay Treaty, which allows shared use of the Island’s waters with French vessels.

Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association and a long-term critic of the treaty, said that he ‘absolutely’ supported the UK’s actions.

‘The statement made by Victoria Prentiss MP was quite clear, in that she said that the clause would enable the UK to legislate for the Channel Islands should they not have the inclination to do so,’ he said.

‘The bill is a framework to replace the Common Fisheries Policy, which will allow the UK to manage its own territorial waters and to act as an independent coastal nation.

‘We have tried for four years now, since Brexit, to get the terms of the Granville Bay Treaty changed and have gotten nowhere. The treaty allows French boats to fish in British waters on a virtually unlimited basis, which does not tie in with where the British government are going.

‘My colleagues have had to give up their time and step in to fight for our future and now it seems that we are going to see this from the UK.’

Mr Thompson added that he believed the Island’s public would support UK intervention in the matter too.

‘I am reading between the lines to some extent with this. But this would be supported by the fishermen of Jersey and I think by the public of Jersey too, who would support us managing our own waters,’ he said.

‘I think this is the final nail in the coffin of the Granville Bay Treaty.’

During the House of Commons debate, Sir Bob Neill MP, a former justice minister with responsibility for the Crown Dependencies, labelled the move ‘provocative’ because it was introduced without the agreement of the relevant Crown Dependencies.

A spokeswoman for Jersey’s government thanked Sir Bob for speaking up for the Island’s position during the House of Commons debate on the matter.

‘As chair of the Justice Select Committee, Sir Bob well understands the constitutional relationship between the UK and the Crown Dependencies,’ she said.

‘We are pleased that Sir Bob has recognised Jersey’s position with respect to the inclusion of a PEC within the Fisheries Bill, and that he agrees that the current approach being taken by the UK Government is both unwanted and unnecessary.

‘Jersey ministers are grateful to Sir Bob for his contribution in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening and for ensuring Jersey’s objections to the inclusion of the PEC were formally recorded during the debate.’

What is a permissive extent clause?

This type of clause in UK legislation that allows UK laws to be passed in the Channels Island via the Queen’s orders in council.

Until the Fisheries Bill the UK had always sought Jersey and Guernsey’s permission to include PECs in bills.

Orders in council must be lodged by the Chief Minister for approval by the States Assembly to become law in Jersey.

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