Britain and France sent navy and coastal patrol ships to waters near the Channel island of Jersey yesterday as tensions spiralled between the two neighbours over post-Brexit fishing rights.
The posturing by the historic rivals was sparked by a protest by 50-70 French fishing boats, which gathered outside Jersey’s main port yesterday morning, raising fears of a blockade.
That prompted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to send two royal navy gunboats to the area, with France following suit with two of its own coast patrol vessels.
“We won’t be intimidated by these manoeuvres,” French Europe Minister Clement Beaune told AFP.
The latest flare-up has been caused by a dispute over fishing rights and licensing following Britain’s departure from the European Union.
At dawn, French trawlers could be seen massed in front of the Saint Helier port on Jersey, a self-governing territory that is dependent on Britain for defence.
Jersey lies just off France’s northern coast and its rich fishing waters were previously open to French boats.
In the run up to the protest, French fishermen had been loudly complaining about new licensing requirements announced by Jersey authorities.
The escalating tensions landed on the front pages of most British newspapers.
“Boris sends gunboats into Jersey,” read a Daily Mail headline, while The Daily Telegraph said Johnson had sent the navy to the island to “face the French”.