WAS Thursday’s Gilbertian stand-off between French fishing boats and two British fishery patrol vessels staged by Johnson and Macron for their own electoral purposes? Johnson could show he is prepared to face down France and the EU, and Macron desperately needs votes and is tacking to the right for nationalist support. We shall see what happens next.
The real significance of this event is no joke. France threatened to cut off energy supply to Jersey if Jersey did not cave in to the French demand for more fishing licences, an illegal demand since the French boats have disqualified themselves from licences by over-fishing, fishing juvenile fish, and fishing far too often, according to current fisheries legislation. French boats are required, under the ‘deal’ with the UK, to show detailed lists of their fishing activity and are refusing to do so as they breach the conditions. Ironically, as a distinguished economist has pointed out, one of the reasons for the delay in Jersey giving out permits is the refusal of the French authorities to provide any information on catches landed in French ports as required by the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA). But the EU says our refusal to provide real time information on goods being shipped to Northern Ireland is a breach of the TCA and they are taking us to court. The UK should of course simply mirror this legal action, but no, oh dear no, Whitehall would not hear of it, it might chill the diplomatic atmosphere.
As Rachel Millard’s Daily Telegraph article says, ‘France’s threat to cut off Jersey’s electricity over a post-Brexit fishing dispute raises wider questions for Britain’s energy policies.’ This lever in EU hands was in fact part of the TCW, and really thrilled the French Senate. The ‘deal’ explicitly links energy supply with fishing rights. In 2026 France can blackmail the UK into surrendering its fishing rights by refusing to renew the energy supply through undersea cables. I wrote to my MP, Boris Johnson, pointing this out and asking what the UK is doing to ensure it is energy self-sufficient by 2026 so as to ward off this threat. Needless to say ‘his’ reply was dense articulation of eco-fundamentalism, telling me the main aim of energy policy was zero carbon by 2050. My question was ignored.
But the Jersey has been pulled off: government policy is to increase dependence on continental supply with new undersea cables being laid now, in particular one from Hampshire to Le Havre costing £1.1billion. Others are going to the Netherlands. So come 2026, ye fishermen of Britain, your industry will indeed be gutted, there can be no return of our historic fishing grounds to this new sovereign island nation state. Whitehall is working away to reintegrate the UK to the EU, all the time, and under cover. So at least we now know, thanks to Macron’s ’Allo ’Allo! antics off St Helier.
Government is not doing the obvious, not seeking energy self-sufficiency through the new technology of mini nuclear pods pioneered by Rolls-Royce, a British company.
Whitehall detests the idea of helping a UK firm, and is not considering this very obvious solution at far less cost, as Ben Marlow in the Telegraph has pointed out. New nuclear power stations were an option for green energy, but vastly spiralling costs now put these beyond reach and they take decades to finish. As Marlow says, if our EU ‘friends and allies’ can turn off power with the flick of a switch, we are totally open to coercion and are experiencing just such EU bullying now. This is the behaviour of an enemy like Putin, who has been harassing Ukraine and the Baltics with Russian gas supply. For the sake of our security, argues Marlow at the end of his article: ‘That leaves mini-nukes, a technology where Rolls-Royce already excels. They are more modern, cheaper and greener than old nuclear power and could become a genuine export industry with proper investment. It would also help to revive one of Britain’s most important engineering companies after it was laid low by the sharp downturn in aviation. The case for mini-nukes to become a cornerstone of energy policy is overwhelming.’ But Whitehall will have already given vast contracts for these undersea cables to foreign companies so as to prevent the commonsense policy of using the latest technology from Rolls-Royce. ‘It is too late, Minister,’ will be the Remainer voice of Sir Humphrey, just as it was over Huawei taking over our telecoms infrastructure until Trump stopped it just in time.
If Boris has any robust leadership behind his Falstaffian bluff, he must stamp on Whitehall, as did Churchill, and reset UK energy plans now – if Carrie lets him, of course.