News World Europe Tensions high after UK sends warships to confront French fishermen
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Tensions high after UK sends warships to confront French fishermen

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Tensions between the France and the UK are simmering after both nations deployed maritime patrol vessels to the waters off Jersey.

The flare-up occurred after a flotilla of French trawlers sailed in protest to Jersey’s main harbour and a French minister suggested earlier in the week that the country might cut electricity to the island.

Cooler heads eventually prevailed after a dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights escalated rapidly.

However the UK says it will remain on standby to support the Channel island should the need arise.

It eventually withdrew its Royal Navy vessels from the area – but not before the tense stand-off saw 100 French ships threaten to ‘blockade’ a key port.

French fishermen say they are being unfairly deprived of access to rich fishing grounds off the coast of Jersey, a self-governing British Crown Dependency.

A crewman called Popeye told the UK’s Telegraph: “We will go back, and next time it will be war.”

Jersey says it is following the rules for issuing licences set out in the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union.

The UK said it backed Jersey while the EU called for calm.

Asked whether the UK was about to go to war with France, the island’s foreign minister Ian Gorst said:

“Absolutely not. But let’s be clear, the threats emanating from Paris, and then the threat today of a blockade of our harbour here in St Helier, are totally disproportionate to the technical issues that we’re facing with the implementation of the Brexit trade deal.

“We take those threats very seriously: we’re grateful to the prime minister for his full support, and what we need to do now is find diplomatic solutions to the issues that we’re facing.”

After the French fishing boats left the area, the British government said its Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels would prepare to return to port in the UK as the “situation is resolved for now”.

“We are pleased that French fishing boats have now left the vicinity of Jersey,” a spokeswoman for the government said.

“We remain on standby to provide any further assistance Jersey requests.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who led the 2016 Brexit campaign, had cast the trade deal as a way to take back control of the United Kingdom’s destiny after Brexit.

On Thursday (local time), he had said the two vessels would remain off Jersey as a precautionary measure, according to his office.

An official from the French presidency said the deployment of patrol vessels from both France and the UK was aimed at preventing clashes between trawlers on opposing sides of the row.

France is angry that on April 30 Jersey issued 41 licences with what the Paris government called unilaterally imposed conditions, including the time French fishing vessels could spend in Jersey’s waters.

-with agencies