Senator Ian Gorst stated that a portion of Jersey’s power, which comes in via undersea cables from Normandy, is supplied by a commercial contract with energy giant EDF, and that the government “anticipates no outages” against a backdrop of escalating tensions.
According to international media reports, his remarks follow those made by France’s European Affairs Minister, Clement Beaune, who said yesterday that both the Channel Islands and the UK were “dependent” on power from the Continent and could not “live on their own,” implying that energy could be used as a bargaining chip in post-Brexit negotiations.
Monsieur Beaune’s remarks echoed those made by French Sea Minister Annick Girardin in May during protests by Breton and Norman fishermen in St Helier Harbour over the new post-Brexit fisheries regime, which gave Jersey sole authority to issue licences to use its waters from the beginning of this year, with Madame Girardin threatening to cut off Jersey’s power connection with France.
Following the blockade of the Harbour, Jersey’s administration stated last week that 75 French vessels had 30 days to present documents demonstrating a history of working in the Island’s seas or halt operations.
Dimitri Rogoff, the head of the Normandy Fisheries Committee, stated last week that Normandy fishermen were “ready to attack [Jersey’s capital] St Helier. It is tense, very, very tense.”
Monsieur Beaune said that energy might be used as leverage in trade discussions in an interview with radio station Europe 1 about the growing pressure on fishing rights in British waters.
“The Channel Islands and the UK are dependent on us for their energy supply,” he said.
“They think they can live on their own and badmouth Europe as well. And because it doesn’t work, they indulge in one-upmanship, and in an aggressive way.”
“Our patience has clear limits. We’ve negotiated calmly and nicely for nine months now. That’s enough.”
Last week, the UK said that it would approve 12 of 47 applications for new small EU fishing boat licences to use its waters. In comparison, Jersey approved 64 full and 31 temporary licences but turned down 75 applications after issuing 47 full licences earlier this year.
Senator Gorst responded to Monsieur Beaune’s remarks by saying, “Jersey has followed the process set down by the Trade and Co-operation Agreement [between the UK and EU] throughout the process of allocating licences.”
“We have worked to ensure that boats which can show evidence of fishing in Jersey’s waters are able to continue doing so, and we remain open to receiving further evidence of fishing activity.”
“We are continuing to work collaboratively to resolve the remaining issues.”
“Jersey’s electricity service is underpinned by a long-term contract with EDF, and we do not anticipate any interruptions in supply.”
“Jersey Electricity is aware of the issues surrounding the French fishing dispute and have assured customers that in the unlikely event electricity supplies are disrupted, the Island has sufficient back-up generation capacity at La Collette and its Queen’s Road headquarters to meet current demand,” the company said in a statement.
“The fishing dispute is clearly a matter for the various governments to settle, and Jersey Electricity is unlikely to comment further.”