Great Britain

Now French trawlers threaten to blockade Calais to stop British goods arriving in the EU after Jersey armada

FRENCH fishermen are now threatening to blockade Calais to prevent British goods entering the EU.

The move came after around 100 boats retreated back to France following a blockage protest on Jersey warning "next time there will be war".

🔵 Read our Jersey stand-off live blog for the very latest updates

Angry French fishermen set off flares as dozens of boats began steaming in just after 6am as the huge row over post-Brexit fishing rights intensifies.

Two Royal Navy gunships - HMS Severn and HMS Tamar - dramatically stepped in after being deployed by Boris Johnson following the threat of a French blockade.

Just after 1pm the fishing boats started to retreat away from the island - just 14 miles off the French coast.

But defiant French fishermen vowed to return.

The dispute appears far from resolved and French fishermen are now threatening to blockade Calais and Cherbourg.

Olivier Lepretre, chairman of the Northern France fisheries committee, said: “The fishermen are saying that if we don't get what we want, we will go and block Calais.”

We said that a war would come from French fisheries

Olivier Lepretre

He said protest was possible “within a few days” and trawlers from Normandy could carry out copycat action at the port of Cherbourg.

Eurocrats at the European Commission “needed to move their a***” and trigger the retaliatory measures laid out in the Brexit agreement struck with Britain last year, said Lepretre.

He claimed the British “are blocking our boats by any means possible”.

“We knew that there would be problems with fishing. We said that a war would come from French fisheries,” he said.

The dramatic decision to deploy the Navy came after French fishermen - backed by Emmanuel Macron’s ministers - vowed to shut off the island unless they could fish more British waters.

The Navy boats have now ordered back to port on the mainland after the fishermen limped home.

One is on its way and the other will leave the area on Friday morning.

A Government spokesman said: “We are pleased that French fishing boats have now left the vicinity of Jersey.

"Given the situation is resolved for now, the Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels will prepare to return to port in the UK. We remain on standby to provide any further assistance Jersey requests."

On Thursday morning, French fishermen were bracing themselves to "restage the battle of Trafalgar" as they prepared to take on the Royal Navy.

One French crewman called Popeye told The Telegraph: "We will go back, and next time it will be war."

'PAIR OF BROTHERS'

Tense video footage showed one of the Royal Navy gunships keeping watch and patrolling the harbour as French vessels protest near the capital Saint Helier.

Emmanuel Macron then sent Navy patrol vessel Athos to the island in a dramatic twist.

And just before noon, a second French Navy vessel, Themis, was spotted heading towards Jersey.

In the wake of the dispute, Boris Johnson and President Macron will try to restore the relationship between the two nations, The Times reports.

Government officials admitted that relations were “not where we want them to be” after the deployment of naval vessels by both countries.

The pair are expected to speak over the coming days to reset an alliance that has hit a new post-Brexit low after disputes about fishing and vaccines

Both sides were keen to “dial down the rhetoric” before next month’s G7 summit, a senior government source said.

“We’re a bit like a pair of brothers,” the source said.

“We’re the closest allies and there is no fundamental unhappiness but things are bumpy.”

After the protests came to and end, Jersey's Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré sounded a conciliatory note saying the government had listened to what the fishermen had to say.

"The French fishermen protested peacefully and respectfully, and were able to set out their concerns directly to Government representatives,” he said.

Jersey fisherman Josh Dearing described the scene at the port of St Helier on Thursday morning as “like an invasion”.

The 28-year-old said: “There were a few hand-held flares and smoke flares going off and apparently a few maybe bangers and stuff going off from the French.”

TENSE FISHING ROW

Fishing was a major sticking point during last year’s Brexit negotiations - and has now flared up once again.

Under the deal European trawlers can continue catching in UK waters for some years to come.

But those casting their nets off Jersey must obtain a licence by proving they have a history of operating in these waters.

Last Friday the Jersey Government handed 41 of these permits to French boats that rely on the rich waters surrounding the British dependency.

Yet French authorities complained these licences came with “new technical measures” that have hamstrung their fishermen with last-minute red tape. 

Jersey’s demands include French boats be equipped with tracking devices, as well as making them fill out more paperwork. 

Emmanuel Macron’s maritime minister stoked tensions by threatening to cut off the power supply to Jersey in retaliation. 

And frustrations came to a boil when a fleet of French boats steamed to the port of St Hellier threatening a blockade.  

Mr Dearing added: “It was quite a sight. It was impressive, I looked from the shore this morning and it was just like a sea of red lights and flares already going off at sea. It was like an invasion.”

He said there had been rumblings about a planned protest a few days ago but he had not been sure if it was “serious or empty threats”.

“The French being the French, they don’t mess around. They can blockade their own harbours – they wouldn’t think twice about coming and doing it to us.”

The furious spat erupted after the island - which is under Britain's protection - slapped French trawlers with post-Brexit fishing licence requirements.

The furious cross-Channel bust-up escalated after one of Macron's key allies threatened to pull the plug on the tiny island's electricity and French fisherman vowed to blockade ports to cut off food and medicine.

French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin threatened to cut off the island’s power of which 95 per cent is generated on the continent and supplied by three underwater cables.

She blasted: "We are ready to use these retaliation measures. I am sorry it has come to this. We will do so if we have to."  

Ms Girardin on Wednesday accused Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, of refusing to issue adequate new licences to her country’s fishermen.

"We have been subject to the whims of the United Kingdom for too long. The European Commission must do its job."

Shipping tracker shows maritime activity around Jersey over the last 12 hours

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