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October 6, 2021updated 25 Apr 2022 12:36pm

France urges EU to cut UK and Jersey energy supply in fishing row

The French Government is pushing the EU to take a stronger stance in a dispute over the UK’s failure to provide sufficient fishing licences.

By Sam Tabahriti

France has threatened to cut the UK off from energy supplies if the terms of the Brexit deal aren’t stuck to. Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune said that the agreement had to be “implemented fully” and, should it not be, they will “take European or national measures to exert pressure on the UK”.

Britain and Jersey could be cut off from energy supply over the UK’s failure to provide sufficient fishing licences to French fishers, Beaune said.

France has urged the EU to take actions against the UK at multiple occasions over its concerns that Boris Johnson’s government is acting in breach of its obligations over fishing access to Channel waters.

Beaune continued: “The UK depends on our energy exports, they think they can live alone while also beating up on Europe and, given that it doesn’t work, they engage in aggressive one-upmanship.”

A third of French boats applying to fish in Jersey’s waters were turned down last week by the island’s government. The UK and Jersey authorities have said that the vessels that had been turned down had failed to provide evidence of operating in the relevant waters – with the UK approving 12 of 47 applicants, and Jersey rejecting 75 of 170.

Beaune did not accept it, adding that France “would not stand for it”.

He went on: “Enough already, we have an agreement negotiated by France, by Michel Barnier, and it should be applied 100%. It isn’t being. In the next few days – and I talked to my European counterparts on this subject yesterday – we will take measures at the European level or nationally to apply pressure on the UK.

“We defend our interests. We do it nicely, and diplomatically, but when that doesn’t work, we take measures. The Channel Islands, the UK, are dependent on us for their energy supply.”

Paris previously suggested it could cut the supply to Jersey, whose energy it provides through undersea cables under a commercial contract between the French company EDF and the Jersey Electricity Company.

EDF supplies over five million business and residential customers in Britain.

Lord Frost, Brexit minister, said that the threats made by Beaune were “unreasonable” and that London had been “extremely generous” to the EU’s requests and he questioned why the EU “resorts to threats quite quickly”.

“For all the frustrations of the last 18 months, and particularly since January, I don’t think we as a country have resorted to those sorts of threats,” he said at the Conservative Party conference. “I know people get frustrated with the way we behave but we have not made those kinds of direct threats to our neighbours.

“The vaccine export ban earlier this year is another area where the EU resorts to legalism, it resorts to threats quite quickly and I just think that is not how we should behave. We don’t, and I don’t see why our neighbours feel they have to.”

The trade and cooperation agreement also creates a link between continued EU access to British waters until 30 June 2026 and the UK’s access to the bloc’s electrical grid and gas network.

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