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Britain sends patrol ships to English Channel island amid fishery tensions with France

Two British Royal Navy ships have been sent to the island of Jersey ahead of a planned blockade by French fishing vessels protesting new fishing licenses from the island. Image courtesy of Google Maps/Website
Two British Royal Navy ships have been sent to the island of Jersey ahead of a planned blockade by French fishing vessels protesting new fishing licenses from the island. Image courtesy of Google Maps/Website

May 6 (UPI) -- The British government said it dispatched two Royal Navy patrol ships to Jersey as tensions over fisheries between the self-governing island and France climb.

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson said the ships were being sent to the island, which is a British Crown Dependency just off the French coast in the English Channel, as "a precautionary measure" to "monitor the situation."

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The ships were sent following a discussion Wednesday evening between Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Jersey Chief Minister Sen. John Le Fondre and External Affairs Minister Ian Gorst "about the prospect of a blockade of Saint Helier," which is the capital of the island, 10 Downing Street said.

French fishing boats planned a blockade for Jersey's port Thursday morning in protest to new fishing licenses issued by the island that restrict the number of days they can access their waters, the local Jersey Evening Post reported.

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The post-Brexit fishing licenses for vessels from Norman and Breton vessels were announced Friday, prompting French National Assembly Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin to threaten to cut electricity to the island.

In response to the licenses, French diplomatic offices on the island will also close and the European country will stop imports.

"At no time during the many exchanges we had with Ian Gorst was there any question of additional criteria subject to the issuance of licenses," the French officials said in a statement reported by the Jersey Evening Post. "We ask the French government to intervene with the European Commission so that the terms provided for in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement are respected and applied."

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Marc Lefevre, president of the Departmental Council of La Manche, tweeted following a discussion with Gorst on Wednesday that their relationship of trust "is very seriously damaged."

"It is unacceptable that Jersey unilaterally sets the conditions for approvals in contradiction with the terms of the treaty," he said.

Later Wednesday, Le Fonder and Gorst said in a joint statement that they expect a peaceful demonstration by the French protesters Thursday morning.

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"Diplomatic efforts will continue to resolve the outstanding issues relating to fishing licenses and to de-escalate the situation, and we will continue to liaise closely with UK and EU officials over the coming hours and days to achieve a pragmatic solution," they said.

Concerning the French threat to cut electricity, the pair said Jersey's infrastructure will not be disrupted as local facilities "are able to meet our power requirements in the event of any external interruption."

Johnson also expressed his "unwavering support for Jersey" and said "any blockade would be completely unjustified," the 10 Downing Street spokesperson said.

Gorst thanked him for his support via Twitter, sa

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