The EU could harm Britain and Jersey’s energy supply due to the UK’s inability to provide sufficient fishing licenses to French fishermen, the French Minister for European Affairs has said.
ClÃ©ment Beaune, who is a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, said action would be decided in a few days and discussions were already underway.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex echoed this sentiment, telling the National Assembly that the EU must be firmer with the UK. “The [European] The Commission is on the move, it must do more, âhe said.
France has consistently pushed the EU to take a stronger stance against the UK, fearing that Boris Johnson’s government would act in violation of its obligations regarding fishing access to Channel waters.
Last week, a third of French boats applying to fish in Jersey waters were turned down by the island government. The previous week, the British government had only provided 12 of the 47 French vessels with permits for its coastal waters. Authorities in the United Kingdom and Jersey said the vessels that had been refused failed to provide evidence of operation in the waters concerned.
Beaune said France “would not put up with it”. He said: âThat’s enough already, we have an agreement negotiated by France, by Michel Barnier, and it should be applied 100%. It is not to be. In the next few days – and I spoke to my European counterparts about this yesterday – we will take action at European or national level to put pressure on the UK.
He added: âWe are defending our interests. We do it nicely and diplomatically, but when it doesn’t work, we take action. The Channel Islands in the UK depend on us for their energy supply. They think they can live alone and denigrate Europe too. And because it doesn’t work, they overbid, and aggressively.
The United Kingdom is a net importer of energy from French nuclear power plants. Paris has previously suggested it could cut off supplies to Jersey, whose power is supplied by submarine cables under a commercial contract between French company EDF and the Jersey Electricity Company.
Under the post-Brexit trade and cooperation agreement reached on Christmas Eve, in the event of a dispute with Jersey, the EU can take unilateral action “proportionate to the alleged breach of the defendant and its economic impact and societal “.
Unilateral measures affecting the energy supply to the rest of the UK would also be theoretically possible. But France would have to obtain the consent of the other member states in both cases and the action should be proportionate, as the UK would have the right to sue the EU in arbitration after such a decision.
Castex, speaking to the French parliament, suggested his government might instead take the option of appealing to an arbitration tribunal at first instance, an easier sale to other EU member states, or go it alone by suspending bilateral agreements with Great Britain.
He said: âWe will use the deal’s arbitration panel to force the British to keep their word. We will call into question all the conditions for a more comprehensive implementation of the agreements concluded under the aegis of the European Union, but also, if necessary, the bilateral cooperation that we have with the United Kingdom in many areas.
The trade and cooperation agreement also creates a link between the EU’s continued access to UK waters until June 30, 2026 and UK access to the block’s electricity and gas grid.
The energy part of the deal allows the UK virtually unchanged access but which expires on the same date as the access deal, raising concerns that this could be used as leverage. The level of fishing quotas will be decided by annual negotiations after 2026.
A spokesperson for the committee sought to minimize the row, adding that Brussels officials were “in constant contact with British authorities to ensure that all license applications are dealt with as quickly as possible”.
The spokesperson said: âWe have taken note of the announcements from last week, but regret that with the number of licenses granted, it has still not been possible to put an end to this problem now.
âThe UK has published its methodology and we are now discussing the differences with UK and Jersey authorities regarding the rights of the boats involved. For our part, we will continue to engage in the interests of our fishermen and our women so that new licenses are issued. “