French fishermen ended their protest over post-Brexit rights at Jersey’s largest harbor on Thursday, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the two Royal Navy ships he sent to the Channel Island will remain there until the crisis is solved.
The French fleet, numbering around 60 in total, sailed back to France after a French delegation met with officials in Jersey. Local media reported that the discussion did not go well, meaning the crisis could well continue or even escalate.
Johnson phoned John Le Fondre, the chief minister of Jersey, to tell him he had his “unequivocal support”.
France had also sent two of its own gendarmerie patrol boats to the island on Thursday morning to “monitor the situation and guarantee the safety of people at sea”.
The French protest was largely peaceful, although there was one instance of a French boat ramming a British boat.
The European Commission also weighed in on the escalating crisis. It called for calm on both sides, but ultimately backed France.
A spokesman said: “Under the EU-UKTCA [the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement], any proposed management conditions have to be notified in advance to the other party, giving them sufficient time to assess and react to the proposed measures.
“Furthermore, any addition of new specific conditions to these fishing authorisations that limit EU fishing activities in UK waters must comply with the objectives and principles set out in the TCA, which are based on clear scientific rationale. Any such conditions must also be non-discriminatory between UK and EU vessels.
“The Commission has clearly indicated to the UK that the provisions of the EU-UKTCA have not been respected. Until the UK authorities provide further justifications on the new conditions, these new conditions should not apply. The Commission remains in close contact with France and the UK on the matter.”
On Wednesday, France threatened to cut off electricity to the island.
It also made its threat to blockade the main port of Saint Helier to prevent supplies from entering the island, and also threatened to close French offices on the Channel Islands to stop Jersey products from being imported into France.
The dramatic escalation in tensions came after the UK introduced new conditions in a fishing agreement over access to its waters.
France has accused Jersey of unilaterally bringing in restrictions on when and where French boats can fish in its waters and for how long, as well as the type of machinery they can use.
France believes these new rules breach the Brexit agreement signed by the UK and the EU.