Annick Girardin, the country’s Minister of the Sea, made the comments to worried Normandy-based fishermen this week. She was responding to warnings from the seafarers that they would stop their Jersey counterparts from landing their catches in the region if they were ever prevented from fishing in the Island’s waters.
The Granville Bay Agreement, which previously set out shared fishing rights in the Island’s seas, became void last month after Jersey signed up to the post-Brexit UK–EU trade and co-operation agreement, known as the TCA.
Jersey’s government has reaffirmed its position to the French in recent days saying that, in line with the new agreement, it will grant French vessels permits to access the Island’s waters as long as they can demonstrate a proven history of previously operating within the Island’s seas.
The post-Brexit agreement – which also allows Jersey to trade tariff-free with the EU – is subject to a 90-day cooling-off period during which France, through the EU, or Jersey, through the UK, could pull out.
Speaking to Le Figaro in Granville, Mme Girardin said: ‘We have 90 days to possibly make a new treaty. France has already signalled to the European Commission that we want to reactivate the Bay of Granville Treaty to how it was but, at present, Jersey refuses to do this.
‘It is in our interest to get ready for battle immediately. The fight has only just begun.’
The minister accused Jersey of being ‘more Anglo than Norman’ and added that she had started setting up a political ‘task force’ to lobby the European Commission to reinstate the treaty.
In a statement, External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said it would be ‘unconscionable’ for a third party to try to go against the States Assembly and attempt to revoke Jersey’s involvement in the trade and cooperation agreement.
‘The TCA is the right and proper vehicle for the future relationship between the UK and EU, agreed by all parties and, by virtue of our participation, sets out the framework for preserving the historic and important relationship that exists between Jersey and France.
‘The Government of Jersey considers the TCA to be the only way of taking regional fishing relations forward. Jersey and France must come together to ensure that the implementation of this deal works for both parties at a local level.’
He added: ‘The TCA is explicit – the new arrangements supersede and replace previous arrangements. As such, the Granville Bay Agreement is superseded and replaced. However, I want to personally assure our colleagues and neighbours in France that the new arrangements will work as well for local French fishermen as they do for Jersey fishermen.’
Senator Gorst then referred to powers which give the two parties – the UK and the EU – rights to potentially end Jersey’s participation in the post-Brexit trade agreement. These powers run for 90 days from 1 January.
‘In affirming Jersey’s participation in the TCA, the Government of Jersey has given the strongest possible signal that it does not wish for these powers to be used by either the UK or the EU,’ he said.
‘Use of these powers would place considerable strain on the relationship in the Bay of Granville by going backwards from the negotiated outcome the TCA represents.
‘It would be unconscionable for a third party, such as an EU Member State, to seek to go against the decision of the States Assembly, Jersey’s parliament.’
The minister added: ‘This is a new agreement that has been determinedly and passionately negotiated in difficult and trying circumstances. It needs to be honoured by all parties. Jersey has – and will – abide to the legally binding arrangements contained within the TCA.’
Earlier this week, St Helier-based boat L’Ecume II was turned away by fishery officers in Granville, as they claimed that paperwork needed to land fish there had not been completed properly.
The situation was quickly resolved but Environment Minister John Young said that problems had now arisen in St Malo where, under new post-Brexit rules, some fish must be landed.
‘We seem to have solved the problem with the direct landings but now there is clearly a problem with the indirect landings – where our fishermen do not land their catch directly into France but come back in their boat to Jersey before their catch goes to an agent and they then ship it onwards to France,’ he said.
‘The rules for that process are different. Not only do they need the correct paperwork but they can only go through what is called a border inspection post and, unfortunately, the one that has been nominated by the French and the one that everyone prepared for, was St Malo.
‘What we have now not got are sufficiently regular sailings of Condor – it is very unreliable at the moment and the [arrival] times do not match the availability of their border agents. Effectively, it is just not working.’
Deputy Young said that he was speaking with the French Sea Minister about the possibility of setting up a border inspection post in Granville instead.