There are facts about the world that every growing child should know. The sun is a star, the sky is blue and the United Kingdom and France can’t stand each other.
While the two countries, due to mutual interests and later the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have been allies for nearly two centuries, historical mistrust, cultural differences and the U.K.’s recent withdrawal from the European Union are constant sources of tension.
The latter has been the cause of recent fishing disputes.
Previously, as both countries were EU members, access to fishing waters was relatively open, easy and accessible.
Now, as BBC reported Thursday, the Bailiwick of Jersey, a British crown dependency less than 20 miles from the continental French coast, will continue to allow French fishing vessels in its waters — provided those vessels have a license proving that they have a history of fishing in the area.
However, the French government claims that Jersey added additional regulations — beyond the scope of the post-Brexit trade deal — without consent or warning.
Jersey’s actions prompted a large protest. Dozens of vessels left the Normandy coast and sailed to Jersey’s St. Helier harbor, according to the BBC. They remained stationary for roughly a half-hour before venturing into the port, the outlet reported.
Once there, they waved French flags, set off bright (but harmless) flares and flew banners related to fishing.
About 30 Jersey residents responded by hanging and flying Jersey flags, though a few residents clearly supported the French.
“They are professional fishermen, the same as we all are, we’d like to keep it all amicable so we can have access to the markets and they can carry on earning a living in our waters,” Jersey fisherman Loic Farnham told the BBC, referring to the French.
Even stronger action was soon to follow. The BBC reported the HMS Severn and the HMS Tamar were patrolling near the Jersey port.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that two Royal Navy vessels will “remain in place to monitor the situation as a precautionary measure,” the outlet reported.
The French government has sent two ships (though not warships) to monitor the situation as well.
The view in St Helier Harbour this morning as at least 60 French and Jersey boats are blocking the entrance in protest at the current licensing regime for French vessels in island waters. pic.twitter.com/UIaUFMerxb
— BBC Jersey (@BBCJersey) May 6, 2021
In addition, the French maritime minister has threatened to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply, which is mostly obtained from France. However, since this threat was met with a lukewarm reaction from EU authorities, it might lack teeth.
“These are only words. We are not ready for war,” Stephanie Yon-Courtin, a member of the European Parliament and the EU fisheries committee, said of the threat, according to the BBC.
Furthermore, the French government likely does not have as much leverage over Jersey as it thinks.
Jersey Electric tweeted Wednesday that it “can reassure customers that in the unlikely event electricity supplies from France are disrupted, La Collette Power Station and Queens’ Road has capacity to supply Jersey’s electricity requirements.”
Following enquiries from our customers regarding the French fishing dispute, JE can reassure customers that in the unlikely event electricity supplies from France are disrupted, La Collette Power Station and Queens’ Road has capacity to supply Jersey’s electricity requirements pic.twitter.com/2W0WR3lGTf
— Jersey Electricity plc (@electricjersey) May 5, 2021
Both nations hope they will reach a diplomatic agreement soon to avoid further turmoil.
Either way, the United Kingdom has lacked a backbone for a long time, and it’s nice to see that it’s developing one again.
This situation, along with an exemplary vaccine rollout, proves that the U.K. is back in business.
Hopefully, this return of an independent mindset will lead to the restoration of people’s civil liberties and foster a renewal of the U.K.’s special relationship with the United States.
Even if France might be an erstwhile ally at times, it is still in America’s best strategic interest to stay out of this dispute — though we should watch it closely.
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