In a stark warning to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU, Deputy Ian Gorst said that Jersey was in control of its own fishing territory. Reports this week quoted EU sources who urged Britain to cede control of fishing waters to the EU in a desperate hope of securing a deal.
It was suggested this could be achieved through Channel Islands fisheries being managed through a different set of rules to the UK. But Downing Street denied this position.
The British Crown Dependency’s External Relations Minister stressed there had been a “misunderstanding” about how the Brexit negotiation process worked with Jersey.
Gorst said: “‘If we start with the basics, the UK is not in a position to offer rights to Jersey territorial waters.
“Jersey will decide whether it is a party to any deal that the UK might negotiate with the EU, either on their own behalf or on our behalf.
Jersey has hit out over a Brexit deal
Downing Street denied EU suggestions that fishing waters would be up for grabs
“If you think about it logically, it’s not possible for the UK to offer up our waters to the EU, but of course the [trade in] goods and fishing issues are fairly central to the negotiations for the UK, to us and the other Crown Dependencies.
“The process is that we discuss with the UK what we would like, we agree with texts that they then submit to the EU and then they have conversations about that text and revert to us.”
The post-Brexit transition period, during which relations between the European Union and the UK have remained static, is due to end after December 31st.
Leaders on both sides of the Channel have warned that an agreement is needed by October if a deal is to be ratified in time for the start of 2021 but issues remain over state aid and fisheries.
Ian Gorst with Nicola Sturgeon
With the cliff edge only a month away, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism domestically and on the world stage for pursuing legislation that would defy the Withdrawal Agreement brokered with the EU last year, breaking international law in the process.
Mr Johnson was forced on Wednesday to agree to table an amendment to the Internal Market Bill, giving MPs a vote before the Government can use the powers related to Northern Ireland which would breach the treaty.
But the compromise has not seen Brussels back down, with Eric Mamer, chief spokesman for the European Commission, telling a press briefing that its position had not changed and it still wanted the offending clauses to be withdrawn from the legislation.
Despite the wrangle over the Bill – which has been derided by every living former prime minister, scores of senior Tory backbenchers, US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Brussels – commission president Ms von der Leyen said she remained sure that consensus on a future partnership with the UK could be reached.
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EU officials suggested the Channel Islands could follow a different set of rules
Deputy Gorst made clear that it had a treaty in place with France known as the Bay of Granville Treaty which could be seen as a future basis for an EU relationship.
A revised deal under this treaty could see Jersey’s vessels have continued access to French ports for Jersey fishermen to land catches.
But in exchange for this, French ships will have access to the Island’s waters.
He added to the Jersey Evening Post: “We’ve said publicly before that we’d like to use that agreement as a future basis for a relationship with Europe and that is a different position from the UK.
A deadline is set for October for a deal
“They don’t have that agreement.
“So what I suspect is that somebody somewhere has misunderstood what the offer is and what the negotiating position on behalf of Jersey is that is being submitted to Europe.
“It’s about the UK putting forward our proposals which are to use a renegotiated Bay of Granville agreement as a basis for a future relationship.
“I can see how it’s gone wrong but, in getting it wrong, they’ve totally misunderstood the situation. It’s just not true.”
The States of Jersey added: “‘We continue to discuss the future fishing relationship concerning access to our territorial waters with all relevant partners and in the context of Brexit.
“Ministers are very aware of the importance of fisheries in Jersey and in our neighbouring communities in France and wish to maintain an agreement which upholds and improves the responsible management of our shared marine resources.”
Jersey as a British Crown Dependency has its own financial, legal and judicial systems and is not part of the UK but the UK is constitutionally responsible for the defence of the island.
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