Andrew Rosindell, MP and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Channel Islands, spoke following a protest at the Normandy end of one of Jersey’s subsea power cables on Saturday. About 150 Norman fishermen, local government officials and members of the public attended.
Jersey and France have been in dispute over the issuing of licences to fish in the Island’s waters – the peak of which was a high-profile blockade of St Helier Harbour by French fishermen. An amnesty to allow the French fleet more time to collect the required historical fishing data and secure licences is due to expire at the end of this month with fears growing that the tensions could escalate.
In May, Minister of The Sea Annick Girardin said France could cut off power to the Island if no solution to the crisis was found. In the French National Assembly she said: ‘I regret if we were to get there but we will be there if we have to do it.’
French Prime Minister Jean Castex has also written to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to ask her to consider using ‘economic levers’ to push the UK into agreeing a compromise for Jersey.
Mr Rosindell said: ‘I am pleased to see that the French fisherman have learnt their lesson from earlier this year, when they disgracefully blockaded St Helier Harbour in Jersey. Instead they are choosing to exercise their democratic right to protest on French sovereign territory.
‘However, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that they are choosing to protest on the beach where the power cable which supplies Jersey lands. The British government must make clear to the French authorities that any threat to Jersey’s power supply will be met with a severe response.’
Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida said he thought the idea of France being able to deliberately sever Jersey’s link with the Continental grid was unlikely.
‘I think it would be quite difficult to cut off our electricity – we have contracts in place. It is not like we are at war and it would probably go against international laws so I think there would need to be really exceptional circumstances. If the link was with Iran and they blew up one of France’s boats – something like that,’ he said. ‘But I do not think they would be able to cut Jersey off because of us applying the [post-Brexit trade and economic co-operation] agreement to the letter. If anything we have been extremely open-minded and lax – they have just had nine months of free fishing in Jersey waters. We have not been unreasonable.’