BORIS Johnson has deployed the Royal Navy to protect Jersey from the threat of a French blockade.
The dramatic move came after French fishermen – backed by Macron's ministers – vowed to shut off the island unless they could fish more British waters, a threat branded an “act of war”.
The furious spat erupted after the island – which is under Britain’s protection – slapped French trawlers with post-Brexit fishing licences requirements.
About 100 French fishing vessels are due to sail to Jersey’s port on Thursday as part of a protest against the new rules, the head of fisheries for the Normandy region, Dimitri Rogoff has said.
In the face of increasingly bellicose French threats, two patrol vessels will sent to monitor the situation and protect the islands 100,000 citizens who depend wholly on imports for food, medicine and even electricity.
Following crisis talks with the island’s leadership, Downing Street said: “The Prime Minister underlined his unwavering support for Jersey.
He said that any blockade would be completely unjustified. As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two Offshore Patrol Vessels to monitor the situation.
"They agreed the UK and Jersey Governments would continue to work closely on this issue.”
HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, the two ships being sent, are under orders to protect the UK's sovereign fishing grounds.
The ships were deployed soon after the UK finally departed the EU at the beginning of the year – again to ward off French trawlers.
They armed with a 20mm cannon, which can fire 700 rounds a minute at a range of 1300 yards, and can travel at up to 20 knots.
Last night the MOD confirmed HMS Severn was speeding toward Jersey.
Twitter users were tracking the vessel online after it conducted an abrupt turnaround off the coast of Cornwall yesterday evening , with HMS Tamar was due to follow on Thursday.
After France warned it would be “brutal and difficult” unless their boats got better access, Britain branded the comments “surprising and disappointing, especially from a close neighbour.”
The furious cross-Channel bust-up escalated after one of Emmanuel Macron’s key allies threatened to pull the plug on the tiny island’s electricity and French fisherman vowed to blockade ports to cut off food and medicine.
It would be an act of war
Fisherman Steve Viney
French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin threatened to cut off the island's power of which 95pc is generated on the continent and supplied by three underwater cables.
She blasted: “We are ready to use these retaliation measures. I am sorry it has come to this. We will do so if we have to.”
David Sellam, head of the joint Normany-Brittany sea authority, claimed Jersey had been taken over by an “trustworthy” and “extremist fringe, who want to reduce French fishing access and profit from Brexit”.
"We're ready for war. We can bring Jersey to its knees if necessary," he raged.
The UK called the menacing words “surprising and disappointing” – but Jersey boatmen warned blocking St Helier would be an “act of war”.
A government spokesman added: “To threaten Jersey like this is clearly unacceptable and disproportionate."
"This is just the latest example of the EU issuing threats as a first resort at any sign of difficulty."
As tensions mounted, Boris Johnson was urged to send in Navy observers by the boss of the Commons Defence Committee.
Tobias Ellwood slammed France's "shameful behaviour" and pleaded for calm.
The ex-defence minister added: "It would be wise to dispatch a Royal Navy Off Shore Patrol Vessel to the area to observe and report."
St Helier is Jersey's only port, which is narrow and would only take a handful of 150-ton French trawlers to block.
But local fisherman Steve Viney, 55, told The Sun: “It would be an act of war, it would be amazing to see the French try but I think they would be disappointed when they arrived and realised we won’t stand for it.
“The fact that the EU is threatening an island is off the scale, they like to think they are civilised but clearly that’s not true because this is something that Russia or China might do.”
Murray Norton, chief executive of Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said the French have been heavy handed in their threats.
Mr Norton said: “The French threats are disproportionate considering we are talking about only a handful of fishing licences which are in dispute.
Jersey’s External Relations Minister, Ian Gorst, insisted that there was no justification for such severe measures, adding: “This is not the first threat that the French have made to either Jersey or the United Kingdom since we are into this new deal.
On Wednesday Mr Gorst held talks with Marc Lefevre, the president of the La Manche region of northern France, on the “difficult set of issues relating to fishing licences”.
Most read in News
No10 said France should lodge a complaint using the dispute mechanism set up in last year’s Brexit deal if it has a problem rather than immediately making threats.
A UK Government spokesman said: “We are working closely with the EU and Jersey on fisheries access provisions following the end of the Transition Period, so trust the French will use the mechanisms of our new treaty to solve problems."
A Whitehall insider added: “They should be using the mechanisms of our new Treaty to solve problems – that is exactly what it is there for.”
Moment French fishermen fire flare at British scallop boat off Normandy coast in fishing row
- US Navy confirms the 18 boats seen in satellite footage swarming the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Strait of Hormuz earlier this month were Iranian - as tensions rise in the Gulf
- Iranian UN ambassador warns US strike killing Qassem Soleimani is 'tantamount to declaring WAR' - as American embassy in Baghdad braces for further violence during funeral marches
- US to send more troops to Middle East as Iran vows 'retaliation' after killing of top general — as it happened
- He hunted black men with a Roman sword. Then he stabbed one to spark a ‘race war’
- When Donald met Kim, Notre Dame in flames and a royal kiss: Pictures of the decade show incredible ups and downs of life around the world since 2010
- US to send more troops to Middle East as Iran vows 'retaliation' after killing of top general — live updates
Boris sends Royal Navy to defend Jersey after France’s ‘act of war’ threat to blockade island and cut off power have 1163 words, post on www.thesun.co.uk at May 6, 2021. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.