Cancelled submarine deal could affect fishing dispute

THE ongoing fishing dispute could be exacerbated amid escalating tensions between the UK and France following the cancellation of a $36 billion deal to supply Australia with French-built submarines, the Home Affairs Minister has said.

Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida: ‘The notion that a vessel cannot prove where it has been fishing is really silly’
Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida: ‘The notion that a vessel cannot prove where it has been fishing is really silly’

Deputy Gregory Guida made the comments yesterday as France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused the UK, USA and Australia of causing ‘a major breach of trust’.

Australia has since claimed that the French-built submarines were ‘not going to meet our strategic interests’ and plans to built eight nuclear-powered subs as part of an arrangement with the US and UK instead.

Mr Le Drian said: ‘There has been a lie, there has been duplicity, there has been a major breach of trust, there has been contempt, so it’s not OK between us, it’s not OK at all. That means that there is a crisis.’

The rising tensions follow a protest involving around 150 Norman fishermen, local government officials and concerned members of the public at the Normandy end of one of Jersey’s subsea electricity cables on Saturday as part of the ongoing dispute over fishing rights.

With less than ten days to go until skippers of European vessels have to submit data to demonstrate a history of fishing in Island waters to be able to continue to do so, French industry leaders claim that only 70 out of the 169 licences applied for have so far been given.

Speaking about the cancelled submarine deal this week, Deputy Guida said: ‘I think the French are quite unhappy about it but, from reading about it, I think the deal was almost unavoidable.

‘But it is a bit of an insult to the French and it has made them extremely angry so it is not going to help our situation.

‘I think it could impact on the whole of Brexit – we must remember that fishing in Jersey is important from a sovereignty perspective but economically it is only a very small part. I have seen figures that say this deal could have been worth between 30 and 70 billion euros so I am not sure what impact 20 million euros of fishing in Jersey is going to have,’ he said.

Deputy Guida added that Jersey had recently received a large amount of licence application data from French boats but accused some of trying to obtain licences for some vessels that ‘had never stepped foot’ in Jersey waters.

In recent French media reports, some French industry representatives claimed that data for some of their smaller French vessels for recent years was not available as they had not been fitted with a ‘vessel monitoring system’. However, Deputy Guida dismissed this as ‘silly’.

He said: ‘VMS is very good because it records things electronically but every boat has logbooks and data to prove what has been caught – there is tonnes of paperwork that a boat has to provide. If you ask anyone in Jersey if they had fished for ten days in any of the last three years, it would take them ten minutes to prove it. The notion that a vessel cannot prove where it has been fishing is really silly.

‘We have seen this data – it has been sent from Paris, to the EU, to the UK and on to Jersey. There are already boats fishing here that have no problems. Yes, there are a few boats that do not have the data but that is because they have never set foot here.

‘We are ready to make an official announcement on how many licences we are issuing and that will probably happen within the next few days but we are not very far from where we were originally in terms of knowing which boats operate in our waters.’

Andrew Rosindell MP, the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Channel Islands, has also commented on the issue following the cancellation of the submarine contract.

In a statement he said: ‘Unfortunately, the way that the French have thrown their toys out the pram over the recent announcement that Australia would be supplied with new nuclear-powered submarines does not bode well for a sensible, grown-up discussion about these issues. Hopefully I will be proven wrong.’

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