Don Thompson spoke with Express.co.uk about the current fishing situation in Jersey following the May protests and subsequent French fishing licence amnesty. Mr Thompson said much of the anger between Jersey and French fishers appear to be driven on the “political” level by French President Emmanuel Macron who he has historically accused of whipping up tensions for political gain. The fishing boss added relations have deteriorated with their French counterparts and claimed the French Government is directly responsible for making things worse.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Thompson discussed the recent activities in Jersey following a last-minute licence amnesty to French fishers.
Back in May, French boats protested in the waters near St Helier after a grace period on licences was drawing to a close.
As part of the post-Brexit agreement, French boats can only operate in Jersey waters if they can prove to the Jersey government they have historically operated there.
However, French fishers claim they were not properly consulted on the new rules and even turned on their own government for taking too long to process applications.
An extension was granted until June with another last-minute extension granted until September to allow French authorities enough time to collect the data necessary to process applications.
Mr Thompson attacked Mr Macron over what he calls a “xenophobic reaction” as he believes the French head of state is doing everything he can to oppose the UK.
He said: “I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Macron has almost adopted a policy of going down a route of xenophobic reaction.
“To everything that was going to or did happen because of Brexit.”
Mr Thompson explained boat crews from both countries have worked together in the past and said there was one instance where Jersey and French boats teamed up to find someone who had gone overboard.
He continued: “That sort of camaraderie that normally does exist, that you wouldn’t question going to the aid of another boat.
“But I think Macron has driven a bus through that… this is all driven much at the political level.”
Amid the disagreements with Jersey and French governments earlier this year, the French maritime minister said France could use “retaliatory measures” against Jersey and highlighted that France provides the island with electricity via underwater cables.
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There were fears France could cut the power to Jersey over the licence dispute which could cause a huge political fallout.
French fishers have also been angry at their own governments for being too slow in processing applications with Mr Thompson saying it is a common feature to see French authorities take a long time to process documentation.
President of the Regional Fisheries Committee of Normandy and Marine Breeding, Dimitri Rogoff, said he and his members would not rule out further protests if their licence demands are not met.
Mr Thompson revealed to Express.co.uk that over 200 French licence applications have been submitted to Jersey’s government despite estimating only 50-60 being eligible.
A spokesperson from the Government of Jersey told Express.co.uk: “A total of 222 applications have been received by the Government of Jersey since 1 January 2021, 47 licences have been issued to date.
“Jersey has requested that the EU submits any further data relating to existing applications by the end of July.
“It is not possible to discuss how many vessels will qualify for a licence until the additional data has been submitted via the formal EU-UK channels, and then reviewed by the Marine Resources team.”
The French government has been contacted for comment