Jersey: French boats protest in St Helier port waters
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David Jones, deputy chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) believes the move probably stems from Mr Macron’s concern at his re-election prospects next year. Clement Beaune, France’s Minister for European Affairs and a close ally of the French President, has already hinted at the possibility of his country moving to delay access for UK financial services – and insiders have confirmed such a strategy was under consideration.
Specifically, Paris is understood to be ready to block the non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed earlier this month paving the way towards future cooperation on financial services, citing concerns over delays in obtaining licenses to continue fishing in UK waters.
Fishing has been a constant source of disagreement throughout the Brexit negotiations, and tensions threatened to boil over last week after a threat by Annick Girardin, France’s minister for the Seas, to cut off the electricity supply to Jersey in a row over access to the waters surrounding the UK Crown Dependency.
Approximately 60 French fishing boats then threatened to blockade the island, prompting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to dispatch to Royal Navy gunships, before the French vessels dispersed.
Speaking today, a source familiar with the French plans said on Wednesday of fishing and financial services: “We’ve made a link between the two.”
A second source, an EU diplomat, accused Britain of failing to adhere to the terms of a deal governing its post-Brexit trade ties with the EU, stressing there could be no progress in other areas if the problems were not resolved.
The diplomat added: “It’s not just France and it’s not just fishing.
“Britain must fully apply the agreements it signed up to, which is not the case right now.”
Mr Jones, the Tory MP for Clwyd West, told Express.co.uk: “The French position is completely without merit.
“Even if they had reasonable cause for complaint about access to the waters around Jersey and the UK, the way that they are trying to bully their way into getting what they want – by threatening to cut off electricity supplies to Jersey, and now trying to stop UK access to EU financial markets – is wholly illegitimate.
The deal on fisheries is contained in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), which is an arrangement between the UK and the EU, with France not directly involved, Mr Jones pointed out.
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The French attitude is becoming increasingly erratic
He added: “Under the TCA, any dispute about fisheries should be referred to the specialist Fisheries Committee for resolution.
“Even if the UK/Jersey were in breach of their obligations, any remedies for such breach would have to be proportionate, and one of those that are set out in the TCA.
“An individual member state has no right to take measures against the UK and, in any event, threatening to cut off electricity supplies or to block UK access to EU financial markets would not be an available remedy under the TCA.”
Addressing the behaviour of the French specifically, Mr Jones said: “The French attitude is becoming increasingly erratic.
“They are behaving like a rogue state, refusing to observe the provisions of the TCA.
“This is probably the consequence of increasing pressure on Mr Macron, who is clearly concerned about his diminishing prospects of re-election next year.”
Mr Jones’s view was echoed by Leigh Evans, Vice Chairman of the CityUnited Project, who suggested the attempt to target London’s financial sector was driven by desperation, and doomed to failure.
He told Express.co.uk: “France no longer has any leverage on Britain over financial services, with the City now thriving and independent.
“It needs to accept a new European order, and work in partnership.”
Speaking to French TV station BFM last month, Mr Beaune said: “The UK is expecting a number of financial services authorisations from us.
“We will not give any until we have the guarantees that on fishing and other subjects, the United Kingdom is respecting its commitments.
“It’s give-and-take. Everyone must respect their commitments, otherwise, we will be as brutal and difficult as necessary.”
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