UK Navy warships stand down as tensions with French fishing fleet ease in Jersey

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By Hannah Somerville
French fishing vessels block the port of St Helier in Jersey on Thursday, May 6.
French fishing vessels block the port of St Helier in Jersey on Thursday, May 6.   -   Copyright  Gary Grimshaw/AP

Britain's Royal Navy warships have been stood down after a de-escalation of tensions with a French fishing fleet at Jersey's St. Helier port.

HMS Severn and HMS Tamar are expected to begin their voyage back to Portsmouth within the next 24 hours after the maritime protest died down.

Around 60 French fishing boats had amassed off-shore early in the day, with some firing flares and threatening a blockade. It followed similar displays earlier in the week in protest over post-Brexit fishing rights.

The stand-off escalated mid-morning after it emerged the French maritime gendarmerie vessel Athos, armed with a cannon, would also be arriving in the area “imminently” on a “patrol mission”.

Despite the strain, in the early evening the British government reported the situation had been resolved. In a statement, the Prime Minister's office said: "We are pleased French fishing boats have now left the vicinity of Jersey.

"Given the situation is resolved for now, the Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels will prepare to return to port in the UK. We remain on standby to provide any further assistance Jersey requests.

"The Trade and Cooperation Agreement brought in changes to fishing arrangements between the UK and the EU. Jersey authorities have a right to regulate fisheries in their waters under this agreement and we support them in exercising those rights."

The dispute began and escalated quickly. On Jersey, a member of a re-enactment militia group fired a blank from a musket towards the boats while France's maritime minister Annick Girardin said France could cut off electricity to the island as a "retaliation measure".