France Threatens to Sever UK's Energy Supply, Slams it for ‘Aggressive One-Upmanship’ in Fishing Row
© AFP 2022 / SAMEER AL-DOUMYA French fishing boat, one of several, takes part in a protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit, on May 6, 2021. -
Earlier this year, in a post-Brexit row over claims by French fishers that they are being denied access to UK waters in the sea off Jersey's coast, Paris warned it could cut off the electricity supply to the British crown dependency.
France has again resorted to threatening the UK with “pressure” to the point of severing energy supplies if it fails to fully adhere to the terms of the Brexit deal.
The country's Secretary of State for European affairs, Clement Beaune, warned the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) had to be "implemented fully" or "we will take European or national measures to exert pressure on the UK".
When asked on French radio station Europe 1 to clarify what measures he was referring to, Beaune brought up the issue of mutual energy supplies.
"The UK depends on our energy exports, they think they can live alone while also beating up on Europe and, given that it doesn't work, they engage in aggressive one-upmanship," he added.
The UK relies on two power cables that transport electricity from France's nuclear power stations across the Channel. EDF Energy, a British integrated energy company, wholly owned by the French state, produces approximately one-fifth of Britain’s electricity at its nuclear power stations, wind farms, and coal and gas power stations.
Tuesday's comments by Clement Beaune came after it emerged that the UK had rejected a number of applications by French boats to fish in British waters.
© AFP 2022 / SAMEER AL-DOUMYFrench fishing boats leave the Jersey waters following their protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit, on May 6, 2021.
French fishing boats leave the Jersey waters following their protest in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to what they see as unfair restrictions on their ability to fish in UK waters after Brexit, on May 6, 2021.
Just 12 of the 47 applications the government had received from French small boats had been approved in September. Paris was even more incensed upon discovering that the government of the British crown dependency, Jersey, had rejected 75 of 170 licence applications received from French boats.
Former Brexit minister Lord David Frost, now responsible for relations with the EU, retorted that it was “unreasonable” to accuse the UK of not acting in good faith when allocating post-Brexit fishing licences to French boats.
While attending a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, he called on the Paris government to “keep things in proportion”.
“We have been extremely generous and the French, focusing in on a small category of boats and claiming we have behaved unreasonably, I think is not really a fair reflection of the efforts we have made.”
Frost added: “We have granted 98 per cent of the licence applications from EU boats to fish in our waters according to the different criteria in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement, so we do not accept that we are not abiding by that agreement.”
He also slammed Brussels, which seemed prone to "resort to threats quite quickly", underscoring:
"For all the frustrations of the last 18 months, and particularly since January, I don't think we as a country have resorted to those sort of threats… I know people get frustrated with the way we behave but we have not made those kinds of direct threats to our neighbours."
A spokeswoman for the government of Jersey was cited as saying: “Jersey has followed the process set down by the Trade and Co-operation Agreement throughout the process of allocating licences. Jersey’s electricity service is underpinned by a long-term contract with EDF and we do not anticipate any interruptions in supply.”
Post-Brexit Fishing Row
Earlier in the year, France issued similar threats of "retaliatory measures" amid a long-running dispute between Paris and London over post-Brexit fishing rights. The French government had been enraged after it was revealed that the Jersey government had rejected 75 of the 170 fishing licence applications received from France.
In May, Paris indicated it could cut off electricity to the British Crown Dependency, Jersey, which receives 95% of its electricity via three undersea cables. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to dispatch Royal Navy patrol boats to protect Jersey amid fears of a blockade by French fishing vessels.