The UK government has said Navy ships patrolling Jersey amid a stand-off over fishing rights in the Channel island’s waters are to return home.
Patrol boats HMS Severn and HMS Tamar had been deployed less than 24 hours ago following warnings French fishing boats could mount a blockade to protest against the new licences they have been required to obtain from the Jersey government.
Early on Thursday, around 60 French fishing boats gathered off the island’s main port St Helier. At the height of the tensions, a Jersey fishing boat was rammed by a French trawler – with footage shared widely on social media.
After the protestors returned, a UK government spokesman said the Royal Navy vessels would now also prepare to return to port.
“We are pleased that French fishing boats have now left the vicinity of Jersey,” the spokesman said.
“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.
“The Trade and Cooperation Agreement brought in changes to fishing arrangements between the UK and the EU.
“Jersey authorities have a right to regulate fisheries in their waters under this agreement and we support them in exercising those rights.
“We will work with Jersey to support the discussions under way with the European Commission.”
The EU had accused Jersey of breaching the terms of the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal.
The European Commission complained the authorities were imposing “additional conditions” on French fishing boats operating there, in breach of the terms of the agreement hammered out on Christmas Eve.
But in a call with Jersey’s chief minister John Le Fondre, Boris Johnson again voiced his “unequivocal support” for the actions taken by the island’s government.
Jersey, the biggest of the Channel Islands, is a British Crown Dependency and is defended and internationally represented by the UK government.
It lies just 14 miles from the French coast and 85 miles south of the English coast.
As HuffPost UK reported earlier, the stand-off prompted some over the top reactions on social media, with some perhaps semi-seriously suggesting it represented the start of a “war” between the UK and France.
To be clear, the UK and France are both Nato members, and war between the two would be incredibly unlikely.
As the issue had been brewing for some time, questions have been raised over armed ships being sent by the government on the eve of crucial elections.