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Fishermen vow to fight UK plans to surrender CI waters

News | Published:

GUERNSEY fishermen have vowed to fight any move to allow French vessels greater access to Bailiwick territorial waters as part of the UK’s Brexit negotiations.

Guernsey Fishing Association president Barry Paint said that any attempt to use the islands as a pawn in order to achieve Brexit would be strongly resisted. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 28697994)

It follows reports that the UK government is considering the surrender of Channel Islands’ fishing rights in order to pass the Brexit deal.

Barry Paint, the president of the Guernsey Fishermen Association, said that any attempt to use the islands as a pawn in order to achieve Brexit, would be strongly resisted.

‘I wouldn’t be very happy and they can’t do it. We’re Crown Dependencies and we’re liable to the Crown, so Boris Johnson can’t rule us.

‘It’s one of our traditional industries, so it’s vital to our character.

‘There are records of fishing for conger here in the 1500s, it was salted and dried and exported.

‘I’m hoping that somehow Guernsey can come to its own deal with Europe so that we can trade with them directly.

‘The idea is in the early stages but we could have a two-way deal with, let’s say, fruit and veg coming back and fish going to them, but right now we haven’t got any shipping going from here to St Malo.’

The island’s senior committee, Policy & Resources, is watching the developments closely, and on social media committee member Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq gave a robust response.

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‘Do not fear, the donkey is roaring and kicking: the Bailiwick won’t accept anything except our own controls over our own territorial seas, constitutionally we will agree our own deals and have made it clear we will not be dictated to over this by anyone – north, south, east or west.’

When the UK left the EU on 31 January this year the fisheries convention came to an end and the Bailiwick legislated quickly to ensure fair access both ways to French and Bailiwick boats.

That arrangement will come to an end on 31 December this year, and this week UK diplomats have floated the possibility of installing different fishing rights around the Channel Islands to the rest of the UK, allowing more access for French vessels.

Britain had set out plans to become an ‘independent coastal nation’ like Norway when the Brexit transition period concludes at the end of this year.

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Fisheries was viewed as an important symbol of sovereignty, but Britain has now hinted that it could be in the mood for compromise.

Guernsey is in the geographical middle of the battle, and Deputy Gavin St Pier, the president of Policy & Resources, issued a statement last night indicating that the island would not tolerate unfair interference.

‘The EU has made it clear that fisheries access to British waters is a prerequisite for any new trading relationship after the end of the transition periods.

‘This naturally means that for the islands this will form part of the negotiation and this point was recognised by the States when they considered the Withdrawal Agreement Policy Letter in January 2020.

‘However, any new relationship must be proportionate, relevant and practical taking into account the island nature of the Bailiwick, its size and population and unique needs.

‘If the UK and EU agree to a new trade agreement, in principle, during the current negotiations this will need to considered by the three parliaments of the Bailiwick before it can be accepted and apply to the islands.’

Helen Bowditch

By Helen Bowditch
News reporter

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