The French government warned on Tuesday that it was weighing reprisals after Britain set up new rules for French fishing boats’ access near the Channel Islands, the latest competition in an in-depth dispute after Brexit.
“We are ready to use these retaliatory measures,” Maritime Minister Annick Girardin told MEPs.
She mentioned in particular the consequences for submarine cables that supply electricity from France to Jersey, the largest Channel island.
“I’m sorry it came to this,” Girardin said, “but we will do it if we have to.”
Paris and London have increasingly clashed over fishing in recent weeks, as French fishermen say they are being prevented from operating in British waters due to difficulties in obtaining permits.
In the latest move, the UK on Friday approved 41 vessels equipped with VMS technology (VMS) – which allows vessels to be located – to fish in waters off Jersey, a self-governing British Crown dependency.
But this list was accompanied by new demands “which were not arranged or discussed (with France) and which we were not informed about,” said the French Ministry of Fisheries.
The measures effectively create new zoning rules for the waters near Jersey – “where ships can and cannot go”, as well as the number of days fishermen can spend at sea and use which machines, the ministry added.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” Girardin said. “If we accept this for Jersey, it would hinder our access everywhere.”