France tells UK: ‘Starting a fishing feud won’t bring you turkeys for Christmas’

In signs that France was growing increasingly impatient with the UK, the country's Europe Minister told London on Friday that Brexit was "your failure, not ours" and that starting a fishing feud would not solve the problem of Christmas shortages.

A French fishing boat protests in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey in May 2021. Jersey is once again at the centre of a row over fishing licences.
A French fishing boat protests in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey in May 2021. Jersey is once again at the centre of a row over fishing licences. Photo: Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP.

France could reduce, but not entirely cut electricity supplies to the British crown dependency of Jersey this winter as part of “targeted” retaliation measures in a dispute over fishing, Europe Minister Clement Beaune told BFM-TV on Friday.

“Reducing supplies (of electricity to Jersey) is possible, but cutting the power to every Jersey resident this winter is something that will not happen and something that I do not want,” Beaune said.

Britain has refused to grant all the fishing licences sought by French boats as part of a post-Brexit access deal, leaving Paris furious and fishermen worried for their livelihoods.

Beaune had previously floated the idea of cutting power to the the British crown dependencies of the Channel Islands like Jersey which rely on nearby France for their energy.

A sequence of statements from Paris indicated that French patience on the issue had run out as bilateral disagreements on a host of issues seem to run out of control.

Beaune, seen as a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, urged Britain to stop penalising French fishermen for its domestic problems after Brexit.

“Stop telling us you do not need us anymore, stop being obsessed with us, stop believing that we will solve your problems,” he said.

“They made a mess of Brexit. It’s their choice and their failure, not ours. It was a bad choice, we see that today.

“It is not by creating problems for our fishermen… that you will solve the problems of shortages of Christmas turkey,” he said.

ANALYSIS: Why the new fishing row between France and UK could get nasty

France's Europe Minister Clement Beaune has accused the UK of 'creating problems' for French fishermen.

France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune has accused the UK of ‘creating problems’ for French fishermen. Photo: JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier had “negotiated the fact that we have an energy export deal, which means we can regulate the flows”, Beaune said, calling that option “a political possibility”.

But he added: “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

The minister said France had asked for 450 fishing licences but had only received 275. “We’re 40 percent short, but we insist on those 450,” he said.

“Britons need us to sell their products, including from fishing, they need us for their energy, for their financial services and for their research centres,” Beaune said.

“All of this gives us pressure points. We have the means to modulate the degree of our cooperation, to reduce it, if Britain does not implement the agreement,” he said.

“If they don’t do their share, then we won’t do 100 percent of our share either.”


Jersey on Thursday called France’s threat to cut power to the British crown dependency over fishing rights “unacceptable” and said it was unlikely to be carried out.

The threat was “disproportionate” and “unacceptable” and violated Britain’s post-Brexit treaty with the European Union, Jersey’s Minister for External Relations Ian Gorst told reporters via videolink.

Gorst said such a move would deprive 108,000 islanders of power, as well as Jersey’s hospital and schools.

“I do not believe therefore it will happen,” he said.

But should France carry out the threat after all, “we do have contingencies in place”, he said.

Fishing rights for EU boats in UK waters were a key stumbling block to negotiations for a post-Brexit trade accord between London and Brussels after Britain’s exit from the bloc on January 1st, 2021.

The dispute flared in May when a flotilla of around 50 French trawlers massed in front of the Saint Helier harbour on Jersey, a self-governing territory that along with fellow crown dependency Guernsey depends on Britain for its defence.

The protest sparked a tense standoff that even drew in French and British military vessels.

Since then, French fishermen have applied for the new access licences but complain of onerous paperwork and a requirement to prove they had fished in British and Jersey waters before Brexit, not always an easy task, especially for smaller boats.

Last week, Britain said it would grant just 12 out of 47 applications for new licences for small EU boats, while Jersey issued 64 full and 31 temporary licences but refused 75 applications.

“We’ve done everything we can to enable licenses to be issued to those vessels who can prove they’ve fished in our waters and we continue to do so,” Gorst said.

Member comments

  1. UK fishermen paid the price for the UK joining the Common Fisheries Policy. French fishermen ( amongst others ) will pay the price for the UK leaving the Common Fisheries Policy. That’s life.

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French government aims to block ‘burkinis’ in swimming pools

France's interior minister said on Tuesday that he would seek to overturn a rule change in the city of Grenoble that would allow women to wear burkinis in state-run swimming pools.

French government aims to block 'burkinis' in swimming pools

The all-in-one swimsuit, used by some Muslim women to cover their bodies and hair while bathing, is a controversial issue in France where critics see it as a symbol of creeping Islamisation.

The Alpine city of Grenoble changed its swimming pool rules on Monday to allow all types of bathing suits, not just traditional swimming costumes for women and trunks for men which were mandated before.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called the change an “unacceptable provocation” that was “contrary to our values”, adding that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.

Under a new law to counter “Islamist separatism” passed by parliament last year, the government can challenge decisions it suspects of undermining France’s strict secular traditions that are meant to separate religions from the state.

Attempts by several local mayors in the south of France to ban the burkini on Mediterranean beaches in the summer of 2016 kicked off the first firestorm around the bathing suit.

The restrictions were eventually overturned for being discriminatory.

Grenoble’s mayor Eric Piolle, one of the country’s highest profile Green politicians who leads a broad left-wing coalition locally, has championed the city’s move as a victory.

“All we want is for women and men to be able to dress how they want,” Piolle told broadcaster RMC on Monday.

The head of the EELV party, Julien Bayou, argued that the decision had nothing to do with secularism laws, which oblige state officials to be neutral in religious matters but guarantee the rights of citizens to practice their faith freely.

Burkinis are not banned in French state-run pools on religious grounds, but for hygiene reasons, while swimmers are not under any legal obligation to hide their religion while bathing.

“I want Muslim women to be able to practice their religion, or change it, or not believe, and I would like them to be able to go swimming,” he added. “I want them also to suffer less demands to dress in one way or another.”

Grenoble is not the first French city to change its rules.

The northwestern city of Rennes quietly updated its pool code in 2019 to allow burkinis and other types of swimwear.