Jersey live updates – Royal Navy to face French warships while defending island from 100 French fishermen's 'act of war'

TWO Royal Navy gunships will face off against the French Navy today as tensions on the island intensified.

The British warships arrived off the UK island to protect it from the threat of a French blockade.

Around 100 French fishing vessels began arriving at the island just after 6am and some on board were setting off flares as a huge row develops over post-Brexit fishing rights.

But after the Royal Navy was sent to Jersey, the French Navy scrambled its own warships to the scene ahead of a tense stand-off.

Locals in the capital Saint Helier said tensions are running "very high" today as footage shows boats descending on the small island – just 14 miles from the French coast.

HMS Severn, which has previously been used to shadow Russian navy warships, and HMS Tamar arrived near Jersey earlier this morning.

Boris' dramatic move came after French fishermen – backed by Emmanuel Macron’s ministers – vowed to shut off the island unless they could fish more British waters, a threat branded an "act of war".

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

Read our Jersey stand-off live blog below for the latest updates…

  • Alice Peacock

    'DON'T CHANGE ANYTHING LET'S STAY FRIENDS'

    A banner on a French fishing boat protesting in front of the port of Saint Helier, off the British island of Jersey.

  • Alice Peacock

    WHY ARE FRENCH FISHERMEN PROTESTING?

    French fishing crews have descended on Jersey this morning, as part of a row over post-Brexit fishing rights.

    Under the Brexit trade deal, which came into force on January 1, EU fishermen continue to have some rights to fish in UK waters.

    This was part of a transitional period, until 2026.

    However, in accordance with the new rules, EU boats wanting to fish within 12 miles of UK coast need to be licensed and prove they have a history of fishing in those waters in order to carry on operating.

  • Alice Peacock

    FRANCE SENDS BOATS TO JERSEY

    A French military ship is headed to Jersey to join the post-Brexit fishing protest, as the Royal Navy patrols the waters.

    French authorities this morning confirmed to Sky News that a patrol vessel, Military Ops ship Athos, would be arriving "imminently" to carry out a "patrol mission".

    The deployment was aimed at "'guaranteeing the safely' of people at sea, they said.

    The ship would accompany the flotilla of French fishing vessels currently protesting off St Helier over a lack of access to waters around the Channel island.

  • Alice Peacock

    WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

    • Around 100 French vessels descend on Jersey just after 6am
    • French fishermen were seen setting off flares near the harbour
    • They are protesting over new post-Brexit fishing rights
    • Boris Johnson sends two Royal Navy ships to the island
    • French Navy sends military ship to Jersey
    • UK ministers could be drawing up plans to "retaliate"

     

    TENSIONS 'VERY HIGH' ON JERSEY ISLAND

    Locals said tensions are running "very high" today as footage shows boats descending on the small island – just 14 miles from the French coast.

    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.”

    He said the French fleet was mostly made up of “big French dredgers and trawlers” of about 12 metres or more.

    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.”

    CHILLING THREAT

    About 100 French fishing vessels arrived at Jersey’s port this morning and are due to launch the blockade as part of a protest against the new rules, the head of fisheries for the Normandy region, Dimitri Rogoff has said.

    In the face of increasingly bellicose French threats, two patrol vessels will be sent to monitor the situation and protect the islands 100,000 citizens who depend wholly on imports for food, medicine and even electricity.

    ‘READY FOR WAR’

    David Sellam, head of the joint Normany-Brittany sea authority, claimed Jersey had been taken over by an “trustworthy” and “extremist fringe, who want to reduce French fishing access and profit from Brexit”.

    “We’re ready for war. We can bring Jersey to its knees if necessary,” he raged.

    BORIS EXPRESSES 'UNWAVERING SUPPORT'

    Following crisis talks with Jersey's leadership, Downing Street said: "The Prime Minister underlined his unwavering support for Jersey.

    He said that any blockade would be completely unjustified. As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two Offshore Patrol Vessels to monitor the situation.

    “They agreed the UK and Jersey Governments would continue to work closely on this issue."

    HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, the two ships being sent, are under orders to protect the UK’s sovereign fishing grounds. 

    The ships were deployed soon after the UK finally departed the EU at the beginning of the year – again to ward off French trawlers.

    WHAT'S GOING ON IN JERSEY?

    Boris Johnson has deployed the Royal Navy to protect Jersey from the threat of a French blockade.

    The dramatic move came after French fishermen – backed by Macron’s ministers – vowed to shut off the island unless they could fish more British waters, a threat branded an "act of war".

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

    About 100 French fishing vessels are due to sail to Jersey's port on Thursday as part of a protest against the new rules, the head of fisheries for the Normandy region, Dimitri Rogoff has said.

    In the face of increasingly bellicose French threats, two patrol vessels will sent to monitor the situation and protect the islands 100,000 citizens who depend wholly on imports for food, medicine and even electricity.

    • Alice Peacock

      SURPRISE

      After France warned it would be “brutal and difficult” unless their boats got better access, Britain branded the comments “surprising and disappointing, especially from a close neighbour.”

    • John Hall

      WRONG METHOD

      No10 said France should lodge a complaint using the dispute mechanism set up in last year's Brexit deal if it has a problem rather than immediately making threats.

      A UK Government spokesman said:  "We are working closely with the EU and Jersey on fisheries access provisions following the end of the Transition Period, so trust the French will use the mechanisms of our new treaty to solve problems.”

      A Whitehall insider added: "They should be using the mechanisms of our new Treaty to solve problems – that is exactly what it is there for."

    • John Hall

      NOT THE FIRST THREATS

      Jersey's External Relations Minister, Ian Gorst, insisted that there was no justification for such severe measures, adding: "This is not the first threat that the French have made to either Jersey or the United Kingdom since we are into this new deal.

      On Wednesday Mr Gorst held talks with Marc Lefevre, the president of the La Manche region of northern France, on the "difficult set of issues relating to fishing licences".

    • John Hall

      HEAVY HANDED

      Murray Norton, chief executive of Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said the French have been heavy handed in their threats.  

      Mr Norton said: "The French threats are disproportionate considering we are talking about only a handful of fishing licences which are in dispute.

    • John Hall

      'ACTING LIKE RUSSIA OR CHINA'

      St Helier is Jersey’s only port, which is narrow and would only take a handful of 150-ton French trawlers to block.

      But local fisherman Steve Viney, 55, told The Sun: "It would be an act of war, it would be amazing to see the French try but I think they would be disappointed when they arrived and realised we won't stand for it.

      "The fact that the EU is threatening an island is off the scale, they like to think they are civilised but clearly that's not true because this is something that Russia or China might do."

    • John Hall

      'SHAMEFUL'

      Tobias Ellwood slammed France’s “shameful behaviour” and pleaded for calm.

      The ex-defence minister added: “It would be wise to dispatch a Royal Navy Off Shore Patrol Vessel to the area to observe and report.”

    • John Hall

      'ACT OF WAR'

      The UK called the menacing words "surprising and disappointing" – but Jersey boatmen warned blocking St Helier would be an "act of war".

      A government spokesman added: "To threaten Jersey like this is clearly unacceptable and disproportionate.

      “This is just the latest example of the EU issuing threats as a first resort at any sign of difficulty.”

      As tensions mounted, Boris Johnson was urged to send in Navy observers by the boss of the Commons Defence Committee.

    • John Hall

      'READY FOR WAR'

      David Sellam, head of the joint Normany-Brittany sea authority, claimed Jersey had been taken over by an "trustworthy" and "extremist fringe, who want to reduce French fishing access and profit from Brexit".

      “We’re ready for war. We can bring Jersey to its knees if necessary,” he raged.

    • Aliki Kraterou

      THREATS

      The situation was 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."  

    • John Hall

      FRENCH FURY

      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."  

    • John Hall

      SURPRISE

      After France warned it would be "brutal and difficult" unless their boats got better access, Britain branded the comments "surprising and disappointing, especially from a close neighbour."

    • John Hall

      HEAVILY ARMED

      HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, the two ships being sent, are under orders to protect the UK’s sovereign fishing grounds. 

      The ships were deployed soon after the UK finally departed the EU at the beginning of the year – again to ward off French trawlers.

      They are armed with a 20mm cannon, which can fire 700 rounds a minute at a range of 1300 yards, and can travel at up to 20 knots.

    • John Hall

      'UNWAVERING SUPPORT'

      Following crisis talks with the island's leadership, Downing Street said: "The Prime Minister underlined his unwavering support for Jersey.

      "He said that any blockade would be completely unjustified. As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two Offshore Patrol Vessels to monitor the situation.

      "They agreed the UK and Jersey Governments would continue to work closely on this issue."

    • John Hall

      CHILLING THREAT

      About 100 French fishing vessels arrived at Jersey's port this morning and are due to launch the blockade as part of a protest against the new rules, the head of fisheries for the Normandy region, Dimitri Rogoff has said.

      In the face of increasingly bellicose French threats, two patrol vessels will be sent to monitor the situation and protect the islands 100,000 citizens who depend wholly on imports for food, medicine and even electricity.

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