Brexit fishing wars and Jersey blockade; time for quiet diplomacy – The Yorkshire Post says

IT is the international context to the Brexit fish waters, and deployment of British and French naval vessels to Jersey, which is so depressing, concerning and perturbing in equal measure.

Screengrab from video courtesy of Alex Ferguson showing French fishing vessels staging a protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights.

Depressing because the blockade of the port of St Helier precedes tomorrow’s 76th anniversary of VE Day when Britain, France and the newly-liberated Channel Islands celebrated the triumph of freedom over Nazi tyranny.

Concerning because Britain and France, the two countries now at loggerheads, were amongst the global-leading G7 nations vowing, just days ago at a major conference in London, to set a better example to the world.

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And perturbing because of how one post-Brexit dispute over fishing rights can quickly escalate into ‘gunboat diplomacy’ when such issues require statecraft – the very diplomacy long associated with the UK and France.

Handout photo issued by of Josh Dearing of French fishing vessels staging a protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights.

Of course, these latest escapades in the English Channel suit both sides – Boris Johnson wants to highlight the sovereignty of UK waters and, in doing so, mask the extent to which his Brexit deal with EU has compromised many UK trawlers including the Hull-based Kirkella.

Equally, French president Emmanuel Macron finds himself in the fight of his political life to secure a second term in 2022 and he will hope that the antagonistic presence of his boats, and threats to cut off Jersey’s power supplies, boosts his standing with voters.

And while post-Brexit fishing agreements were always going to lead to anomalies – like those off the coast of Jersey which, as a British Crown Dependency, was never part of the European Union. But there is no reason why these cannot be overcome with some quiet diplomacy – a much-neglected asset.

At least the stand-off appeared to end peacefully – for now – but it still shows what could, potentially, happen if calm seas, and tempers, do not prevail.

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