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'Furious' French Fishermen Leave Jersey

French fishermen have now left the harbour after hours of protests.

French fishermen are leaving Jersey after staging mass protests in the island's harbour against the licence conditions for using Jersey's waters.

Assistant Environment Minister Deputy Gregory Guida and other government officials met French fishermen to hear their concerns directly.

One French journalist posted on Twitter to say their fishermen leave the island 'furious and awaiting action.'

External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst says we need to remind ourselves that it was for the Assistant Minister to listen and explain how Jersey came to its decisions on issuing licences.

"... and then to go away and if possible, deal with the concerns that are raised.

"This is an issue really at the European Union level and the questions that they have got are the ones that we are seeking to answer."

Dozens of french fishing vessels descended on the island this morning.

They entered the port and let off flares - holding up signs and flags under the watch of two Royal Navy patrol boats positioned off the southwest coast deployed by the UK government.

Downing Street has confirmed that the gunships will be staying put for the moment.

"The Prime Minister spoke to the Chief Minister of Jersey, Senator John Le Fondre, the Deputy Chief Minister, Lyndon Farnham and the Minister for External Affairs, Ian Gorst this morning.

"The Chief Minister updated the Prime Minister on the latest developments with French fishing vessels around Jersey's coast.

"The Prime Minister reiterated his unequivocal support for Jersey and confirmed that the two Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels would remain in place to monitor the situation as a precautionary measure.

"They agreed to stay in touch as the situation develops."

Senator John Le Fondre, Senator Lyndon Farnham, and Senator Ian Gorst speaking to the Prime Minister over the phone.

"We updated the Prime Minister on the current position in respect of the French protest and confirmed that Jersey Government representatives were meeting the fishermen to hear their concerns, and that we would ensure that lines of communication remained open and constructive." - Senator John Le Fondre, Chief Minister.

"The Prime Minister reiterated his personal support, and the continued assistance of the UK Government in working to resolve the dispute. We agreed that all sides remain committed to engaging with our partners in the EU and France to resolve the concerns arising from the issuing of fishing licenses under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which led to today’s protest." - Senator Ian Gorst, External Relations Minister.

The European Commission says that the Brexit agreement conditions are not being met in the waters off the coast of Jersey.

"I would say that, of course, we follow the situation and obviously we call for restraint and for calm and for discussing the issue at stake between the two stakeholders calmly." - Dana Spinant, Deputy Chief spokeswoman for the European Commission.

Senator Gorst says Jersey's government 'does not concur' with the European Commission's assessment.

"There are a number of terms that the licences are written in. You've got the number of days, the species, and then of course we've been quite clear and we've notified the Commission as well about the limitation on the trawler line. That condition mirrors exactly the conditions that Jersey licences have had for a while and then you've got the other small measure about the closure of bream nesting areas.

"We think that is absolutely appropriate for sustainability in our waters so it seems absolutely reasonable. They are the issues that we need to work through with the (European) Commission to find solutions to."

The President of the Jersey Fishermen's Association says he doesn't think the demands from the French are reasonable.

The anger from French fishermen led to threats of a blockade and cutting the undersea electricity cable connection.

Don Thompson disputes claims that the conditions would have come as a shock to them.

"It was probably a show of force in the first place and I don't think Jersey has capitulated or given in to the demands.

"The opportunity has been given to provide extra data and they need to go back and get on with that. The situation is not resolved, but I think any threat of the island being under siege has gone now."

Senator Gorst has said the anger is a result of a misunderstanding that can be resolved - Mr. Thompson thinks it's more of a technical problem where the data they've provided to show their track record of fishing in Jersey waters is not of very good quality.

"I think, perhaps, they need to take it up with their administration if there are problems with the data. It could be that the French have just been a bit sloppy about recording their catches from our waters in the past and that does seem to be the case."

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