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The escalation in tensions between the UK and France over fishing rights surrounding the Channel Island of Jersey comes at what is potentially an opportune time for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as voters in England, Wales, and Scotland head to the polls today in national, regional, and local elections.
- The dispute originated as Jersey demanded data from French fishing ships regarding their historic activities in Jersey waters as part of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Some French ships were unable to provide data and therefore have been denied access to Jersey waters, causing significant uproar among the French fishing industry.
- In response, French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin threatened Jersey with power cuts, stating to parliament "As you know, the [Brexit] agreement contains retaliatory measures ... So as far as Jersey is concerned, I would remind you, for example, of the transport of electricity via submarine cables. So we have the means, and even though I'm sorry it has come to this, we will do so if we have to,"
- The French fishing fleet has also engaged in a peaceful blockade of Jersey's main port, St Helier. This in turn sparked the UK gov't to send two Royal Navy ships to Jersey in order to ensure safe passage for ships in and out of the port.
- While further escalation seems unlikely, the incident risks souring EU-UK and France-UK relations at a time when they had seemingly been improving (see MNI: EU-UK Edge Closer To Post-Brexit Northern Ireland Deal).
- The timing of the incident could not be better for PM Boris Johnson, with a bust-up between the UK and France providing the Conservatives with the chance to 'rally round the flag' at a time when voters are going to the polls - something that often benefits incumbent parties more than the opposition and parties on the right more than parties on the left.