French and British navy and coastal patrol ships transited towards the Channel Island of Jersey on Thursday as tensions soared between the two neighbours over post-Brexit fishing rights.
Around 50 French fishing boats gathered at the main port on the UK island of Jersey on Thursday, raising fears of a blockade. This prompted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to send two navy ships to the area, with France following suit with two of its coast patrol vessels.
“We won’t be intimidated by these manoeuvres,” French Europe Minister Clement Beaune told AFP.
At dawn, around 50 French fishing boats could be seen in front of the port of Saint Helier on Jersey, a self-governing territory that is dependent on Britain for defence. It lies just off France’s northern coast and its rich fishing waters were previously open to French boats.
The British gunboats HMS Severn and HMS Tamar arrived in waters of Jersey to “monitor the situation,” the UK government said on Thursday. The vessels are part of Britain’s Fishery Protection Squadron, the Royal Navy’s oldest frontline squadron, with a history dating back more than 500 years.
French fishermen have complained about new licensing requirements announced by Jersey authorities. They find the paperwork as deliberately obstructing them, the same charge made by other French boat owners who have also denounced delays in the licensing process for access to UK waters elsewhere.